The witching hour had struck and he still wasn't home. Serena Hunt stood silent and still at her son's bedroom window and gazed across the garden towards the neighboring forest. Although she appeared calm, her mind was a turmoil of thoughts and what-ifs. Intent on her vigil, she did not notice the figure that began to move stealthily up behind her.
The approaching shadow paused for a moment to take note of the vision that stood before it. Serena was small and slight, with a tousled cap of hair so pale in colour that it appeared white in the faint moonlight that drifted down from the bright crescent in the sky. Although her gaze was directed out the window, the shadow knew that her eyes were of the palest grey, almost as colorless as the white tunic and ankle length skirt she was wearing. It was the kind of outfit she favored, old-fashioned and not entirely practical. It added to her wide eyes and delicate features to give her an air of innocence, but the shadow knew that look was very deceptive. It moved nearer.
The following day, the small village of Witchhaven buzzed with the news of the double disappearance. Throughout the day, the families that lived within the boundaries of the Witchwood itself received call after call from concerned villagers, wishing to know the latest news. Every call was answered with the same words.
"No sign yet."
As the day turned to twilight, and then to night, the villagers returned to their homes and locked their doors. They all knew that it was not a good night to be out in. They were right.
Shortly before nine o'clock, Witchhaven's Sheriff and his two Deputies received a visitor. By midnight, the four of them had tracked the kidnapper to his lair, an abandoned farmhouse a few miles from Witchhaven. There they found an unexpected, and most unwelcome, surprise.
From their vantagepoint on a small hill overlooking the farm, they watched in grim silence as the militia-style group gathered. It was a group the watchers knew all too well and one which they had believed to have been disbanded a year earlier. As the group began to head towards the large barn near the house, the watchers knew it was time for them to make their move. If they waited any longer, they would be too late. While the Deputies headed off to create a diversion, the Sheriff and the tracker had a hurried conference. A few moments later, the Sheriff headed back to his car to radio for assistance. The tracker slipped into the shadows and began to make his way towards the barn.
The barn echoed with the conversation and laughter of the gathered crowd as the tracker slipped around the far side of it. Swiftly, silently, keeping to the shadows, he made his way along the back wall until he was just around the corner from where the door was. He waited. A few minutes later, his patience was rewarded with cries of alarm coming from the men who were standing guard at the door. As the crowd rushed out to deal with the crisis, the tracker slipped around the corner and into the barn, unnoticed. He crept into the shadows and stood there, his sharp eyes taking in everything within a few moments. He clenched his hands into fists, and forced himself to remain calm at what he saw, knowing that any mistake he made could cost dearly.
The far end of the barn had been converted into a small stage-like area. On the stage, a young man of around 25 stood facing the back of the barn where two sets of manacles had been attached to the wall. Serena Hunt was chained in one of the sets. The other set's occupant was in shadow, but the tracker knew who it was. Keeping to the shadows, the tracker began to move towards the back of the barn.
The man was speaking to the prisoner in the shadows, explaining to him why he was there. As the tracker moved nearer, he began to make out the man's words.
"Your kind are a menace to society. Dangerous. Deadly. You have to be stopped. My father tried, and failed. He was weak. I'm strong. I will succeed." There was a faint clinking sound, as though the prisoner was struggling against his bonds. The man laughed cruelly. "Don't think you can escape me. You can't. Those manacles are locked tight and your powers can't save you now. Oh yes, that's right, I know your secret. I know what you are and I know your weaknesses." He held up something very small that glinted in the light. Recognizing the object, the tracker had to force himself to keep moving at a steady pace. The man continued speaking.
"Yes, with this your reign of terror will be ended. The people of this quaint little village will finally be free to step out of doors every night of the year if they want to. You won't be able to hurt them again. You won't be able to hurt anyone again!" The man turned to Serena and his voice lowered, became almost apologetic.
"I regret that you had to be brought here, but there was no choice. You knew what he is, and yet you did nothing to stop him! You are as guilty as he is, so you too must suffer the penalty! Don't worry though, in your case the penalty will not be as severe."
The tracker saw the look that flashed in Serena's eyes and knew it was time for him to make his presence known. He calmly stepped out of the shadows a few feet in front of the stage. He cleared his throat and the man jumped in surprise before swinging round. The look of shock on his face was almost comical, but he quickly pulled his reactions back in check. Something resembling a smile crossed his face as he looked down at the tracker. "Well boy? I take it the others sent you in to report?" The tracker looked calmly up at him for a long moment.
"What? What do you mean 'not exactly'? Speak up boy!" There was something about the boy that was making the young man rather nervous, although he couldn't quite work out what. The boy certainly looked normal enough. He was just a boy of around 16 with dark hair and eyes and wearing the usual dark clothing that teenagers seemed to favour. Then the boy smiled. It was an oddly mocking smile, as though he knew something that the man didn't. The man blinked as he realised why the smile seemed so familiar. He took a closer look at the boy.
What he had taken for dark hair was in fact a deep russet-red. His eyes were so dark a brown that they were almost black. The boy's black jacket was normal enough, as were his black jeans and his shirt, even though it was a deep wine red. It was the eyes that made the man stumble back a step though. He'd seen those eyes before. His own eyes narrowed in hatred.
"Well, well. What have we here? A young pup that doesn't know when to run. You foolish child, what can you possibly do? You're outnumbered a hundred to one and without your power."
The tracker smiled slightly as he stepped closer to the stage. "That's not entirely true. On either account. Firstly, my friends are rounding up your followers as we speak, so you need not expect any help from that quarter. Secondly..." The tracker's eyes glinted. "Who says I'm without my power?" Before the man could react, the boy began his transformation. Moments later he leaped onto the stage where the man was blinking in stunned disbelief.
"B...But that's impossible! There's no full moon tonight!" As he realised the implications and began to turn around, the tracker spoke.
"Who says we need a full moon?"
With a growl, the prisoner that had been in the shadows leaped forward, freed of his bonds when he had transformed. He struck the man and knocked him down hard. As he leaned over the now-cowering man, he said softly, "You made one other mistake when you messed with my family." The man felt a stirring of breeze a moment later and his eyes widened in astonishment. There was a sharp sound, like a powerful wing striking something, and then silence.
While the Sheriff bundled the man into his car, three shadowy figures watched from the overlooking hill. The crescent moon came out from behind a cloud and for just a moment they were revealed. On one end, a large wolf with dark russet-red fur sat. His dark eyes glowered down at the scene below and his muzzle lifted in a soft snarl. On the other end, a large white owl stood calmly on the grass. Her light grey eyes watched as the Sheriff's car left the farm and began to make its way back to Witchhaven. She shivered slightly and the wolf immediately turned his attention on her, his gaze and voice becoming gentle.
"It's over my love. We're safe now. Thanks to Liam." The owl bobbed her head.
"We are, yes. But I do not believe we have heard the last of this. I have the strongest feeling that we shall have further encounters with that man." She turned to the third figure and the owl version of a smile came to her face. "Thank you my dear. You saved us."
The third figure sat quietly between the other two. He looked down at the farm and thought for a moment before turning back to the other two. "I think you're right Mom." Liam Hunt turned to his father. "I'm just glad the Sheriff was able to contact me. If I hadn't made it back in time..." Wilder Hunt leaned down and gently nuzzled his son.
"But you did make it back." Before his son could say another word, Wilder added firmly, "I don't want to hear a single word about your not going on any more camping trips with the others either. Your mother and I looked out for each other long before you were born after all." His voice was gentler now; "The most important thing for us has always been that you are safe and happy. Besides, all young ones need to go out and experience the call of the wild once in a while."
As Serena chuckled, Liam grinned. "Dad, I don't think I could experience the call of the wild any more than I already do!" The small fox with the dark russet-red fur looked up at his father with laughter sparkling in his dark eyes.
As the small family began to make their way back home, Liam chuckled softly. "Did you see the look on his face when I changed? I'm not sure what surprised him more, the fact that I could change, or what I changed into!" His parents' laughter joined his. It was not the first time that someone had been surprised by Liam's power, and they were all sure that it wouldn't be the last either. They knew they were unusual, even among their own kind where like usually called to like, but they were happy the way they were. They were a family.