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Huntress (Chapter 14)

Did you have trouble getting away?" Hugh said

It was the next morning, a very different sort of day from yesterday. The sky was overcast and the air

was heavy. Everyone Jez had passed at the Concord BART station looked a little depressed.

"Eh, a little," she said, and sat down by Hugh on the platform. They were at the far end of the station,

beyond the covered area with benches, beside a little concrete security house. It was a safe and private

meeting place since the station was almost deserted after the morning commute. "They chained up my

bike with this huge chain. Claire drove me to school-she's been watching me like a werewolf guarding

dinner. And Aunt Nan called the office to make sure I didn't cut" Hugh shifted in concern. There was a

tiny breath

of warm wind, and it stirred his fair hair. "So what did you do?"

Jez grinned. "I cut." She shrugged and added, "I got a guy from my auto shop class to drive me here. It

wasn't hard."

He smiled at her sadly, his gray eyes distant. "But they're going to find out. Jez, I'm really sorry for

completely messing up your life."

She shrugged again. "Yeah, but if I don't do it, everybody's life is going to be even more completely

messed up. Every human's."

"I know." He shivered slightly. Then he drew up his legs, clasping his arms around them. He looked at

her with his chin on his knees. "So what did you find out?"

"That the girl Morgead thought was the Wild Power isn't." He looks so cute that way, Jez thought

helplessly. So-compact. Morgead would never sit like that.

Hugh winced. "Great. You're sure?"

"Yeah. It was a little kid, eight years old, and she was something special-but not that. She was…" Jez

tried to think of a way to describe it. Hugh watched her with eyes that were clear and fathomless, sad

and wry and gentle all at once. And suddenly Jez got it. She gasped.

"Goddess-I know! She was like you. That kid was an Old Soul."

Hugh's eyebrows went up. "You think?"

"I'm sure of it. She had that same way of looking at you as if she's seen all of history and she knows

that you're just a little part. That… trig picture' look. As if she were beyond stupid human things."

"But not a Wild Power," Hugh said softly. He looked half discouraged and half relieved. "So then the

Morgead connection is useless."

"Actually, no. Because he's got evidence for the Wild Power on videotape." Jez explained about the

movie and the fire and the blue flash. "So somebody around that kid is probably it. I know that area and

so does Morgead. We may be able to find out who."

Hugh chewed his lip. Then he looked directly at her. "It sounds dangerous. Just how is Morgead taking

tins-you coming back and all?"

Jez stared out across the BART tracks. They looked like regular train tracks, except for the big one

labeled danger electric third rah.. There was a sound like faraway thunder, and then a train came whizzing

up like a sleek futuristic white dragon. It stopped and a few people got on and off in the distance. She

waited until it left again to answer.

"He… wasn't very happy at first. But then he kind of got used to it. I don't think he's going to make any

trouble-unless he finds out, you know."

She wasn't sure what else to say. She didn't want to talk to Hugh about Morgead-and she certainly

didn't want to explain what had happened. Especially not when she was so confused about it all herself.

"You still think he'd hate you if he found out you were half human?" Hugh's voice was quiet.

Jez laughed shortly. "Believe it. He would."

There was a silence, while Hugh looked at her. Suddenly Jez found her mind posing an odd question. If

it were Hugh or Morgead, which would she take?

Of course, it was a completely ridiculous question. She couldn't have either of them. Hugh was an Old

Soul, and beyond her reach. Not to mention that he only thought of her as a friend. And Morgead might

be her soulmate, but he would murder her if he ever discovered the truth.

But still, if she did have a choice… Hugh or Morgead?

A day ago she'd have said Hugh without question. How strange that now it came up the other way.

Because, impossible as it was, deadly as she knew it to be, it was Morgead she was in love with. And

she had only just understood that this moment.

What a pity that there was no hope in the world for them.

Jez found herself giving another short laugh- and then she realized that Hugh was still looking at her. She

could feel color rise to her cheeks.

"You were miles away again."

Tm just foggy. Not enough sleep, I guess." Plus all that fun yesterday. She was still sore from the stick

fight and the fall with Iona. But that wasn't Hugh's problem.

She took a breath, groping for another subject. "You know, there was something I wanted to ask

you. Morgead said the Council had dug up another prophecy-about where each of the Wild Powers is

from. Have you heard it?" When he shook his head, she quoted:

"One from the land of kings long forgotten; One from the hearth which still holds the spark; One from the

Day World where two eyes are

watching; One from the twilight to be one with the dark."

"Interesting." Hugh's gray eyes had lit up. " 'One from the hearth'… that's got to be the Harman

witches. Their last name was originally 'Hearth-Woman.' "

"Yeah. But the line about the one from the Day World-that one's a human, right?"

"It sounds like it."

"That's what Morgead thought-that's why he thought the little girl might be a Wild Power even though

she was human. But what I can't figure out is what it means by 'where two eyes are watching.'"

"Mmm…" Hugh gazed into the distance, as if he liked the challenge. "The only thing I can think of that

combines the idea of 'Day* and 'eyes' is a poem. It goes something like 'The Night has a thousand eyes,

and the Day only one.' The one eye being the sun, you know, and the thousand eyes the stars at night."

"Hmpf. What about the moon?"

Hugh grinned. 'I don't know. Maybe the author wasn't good at astronomy."

"Well-that doesn't help much. I thought it might be a clue. But the truth is that we don't even know if it's

the human Wild Power we're after."

Hugh put his chin on his knees again. "True. But I'll let Circle Daybreak know about that prophecy. It

might help eventually." He was silent a moment, then added, "You know, they dug up something

interesting, too. Apparently the Hopi Tribe predicted the end of the world pretty accurately."

"The Hopi?"

"I should say, the ends of the worlds. They knew that it had happened before their time, and that it

would happen again. Their legend says that the first world was destroyed by fire. The second world was

destroyed by ice. The third world ended in water- a universal flood. And the fourth world-well, that's

ours. It's supposed to end in blood and darkness- and end soon."

Jez murmured, "The first world-?"

"Don't remember your Night World history?" He tched at her, with a smile that didn't reach his eyes.

"The first civilization was the shapeshifters'. Back when humans were scared to go out of their caves, the

shapeshifters ruled and the humans thought of them as gods. Animal spirits, totems. It was Shapeshifter

World. That lasted for about ten thousand years, until a bunch of volcanoes suddenly became active-"

"Fire."

"Yeah. The weather changed, people migrated, and the shapeshifters lost control. After that it was really

Witch World. The witches did better than

everybody else for ten thousand years, but then there was an Ice Age-"

"And the Night Wars," Jez said, remembering. "When the vampires fought the witches."

"Right. And after all that, the vampires were in control; it was Vampire World. Which lasted about

another ten thousand years, until the flood. And after the flood, human civilization really started. It was

Human World, and it has been for a long time. The Night People have just been hanging on around the

edges, hiding. But. . ." He paused and straightened. "That started about eight thousand

B.C."

"Oh."

"Yeah. The millennium marks the end of our ten thousand years." He gave his gentle, half-mocking smile.

"We humans are about to lose our lease. Something's going to happen to bring blood and darkness and

then there'll be a whole new world."

"Only if we don't stop it," Jez said. "And we will- because we have to."

Hugh's smiled changed, softening. "I think we're lucky to have people like you trying." Then he lost the

smile completely. He looked uncertain. "Jez- you know, Old Souls aren't really beyond 'stupid human

things.' We're as human as anybody. And we … I mean, and I…"

Jez's heart was beating uncomfortably fast. The way he was looking at her-she'd never seen Hugh look

like that at anything or anyone.

Another rumble in the distance, and then a train came rushing in.

Hugh blinked, glanced up at the digital clock display above the platform, then checked his watch. He

cursed.

Tm supposed to be somewhere. I'm late."

Jez's heart gave a strange thump. But not of disappointment. Weirdly, it was more like relief.

"Me, too," she said. "I'm supposed to meet Morgead before everybody else gets out of school. I ought

to take the next train to San Francisco."

He still hesitated. "Jez-"

"Go on," she said, standing up. "Ill call you if I turn up anything. Wish me luck."

"Be careful," he said instead, and then he was hurrying away.

Jez watched him go. She couldn't help wondering what he had been about to say.

Then she turned to walk back to the central part of the station. She was partway around the concrete

guardhouse when she heard a noise on the other side.

A stealthy, sneaking noise. Not the kind a security guard would make.

Jez didn't hesitate. Smoothly, completely soundless herself, she changed course, turning back and going

around the structure the other way to get behind the sneaker. The instant she had a clear view of the

intruder's back, she jumped.

She landed on top of her quarry, with a control hold on the person's wrist. But she already knew that

this wasn't going to be a fight to the death.

"Jez-ow-it's me!" Claire spluttered.

"I know it's you, Claire."

"Let go of my arm!"

"I don't think so, Claire. You having an interesting morning? Hear any good jokes?"

"Jez!" Claire struggled, hurting herself, then got mad and hurt herself more trying to hit Jez. Jez allowed

her to sit up, still keeping hold of her.

Claire's face was flushed and wrathful, her dark hair sticking in strands to her cheeks. Her eyes were

shooting sparks.

"Okay, so I'm sorry for eavesdropping. I followed you when Greg Ludlum drove you here. I wanted to

know what you were doing. I didn't know that you were completely freaking insane!"

"Well, it's too bad you didn't figure it out earlier. Because unfortunately I have to kill you now to keep

you from talking."

Claire's eyes widened and she choked. Jez suddenly realized that underneath all the sparks and the

yelling her cousin was terrified.

She let go of Claire's arm and Claire slumped away from her, rubbing it.

"You-you are insane, aren't you?" Claire looked at her sideways, through clinging strands of hair. "I

mean, all that stuff about the world ending-it's some kind of bizarre game you're playing with your weird

friends, isn't it? Some kind of Dungeons and Dragons stuff…"

"What do you think, Claire?" Jez stood up and offered Claire a hand, worried that someone might notice

them. She kept that hand on Claire as she herded Claire back behind the guard house.

The truth was that this situation wasn't funny.

Claire really was in trouble-because Jez was in trouble.

Her entire cover was blown. Everything she'd worked for in the past year-Claire could destroy it all.

Claire knew way too much, and Claire hated her enough to use it.

"I think … I don't know what to think." Claire swallowed. "Who was that guy?"

"One of my weird friends. Right?"

"He didn't seem so weird. When he said things- I don't know. They sounded…" Claire's voice trailed

off. Finally it came back, almost inaudibly. "Real."

"Great." I am going to have to kill her. What else can I do?

"It's not a game, is it?" Claire said, looking at her. All the anger was gone from the dark eyes now. They

were simply bewildered and frightened.

Then Claire shook her head. "But, I mean, it's impossible. Vampires and shapeshifters and witches-it's

all just…" Her voice trailed off again.

Jez was simply looking at her, with eyes that might be less silvery than a year ago, but that she knew

were still pretty strange. And after a few moments Claire's gaze lost its focus and her whole body seemed

to fall in on itself, as if it had lost something vital. Innocence maybe, Jez thought grimly.

"Oh, God, it is true," Claire whispered. 'I mean, it's really true. That's why you're gone all the time, isn't

it? You're off-doing something."

Jez said, "Yeah."

Claire sagged against the guardhouse. "Oh, God. I … God. I feel so strange. It's like-nothing is what I

thought."

Yeah, I know the feeling, Jez thought. When the whole world turns around and you have to adjust in two

seconds flat. It happened to me, too, a year ago.

But none of that was going to help Claire. All she could say was "I'm sorry."

Claire didn't seem to hear her. She was speaking in a voice that was just a breath. "That's why… that's

why all that weird stuff with your father. Nobody knowing anything about his family and all. I knew from

the beginning that there was something about you; I just couldn't tell what it was."

Oh, great, Jez thought. Here it comes. She tried to keep her face impassive as Claire faced her squarely,

raising her eyes with a look somewhere between wonder and dread.

"That guy-he said you were only half human. Which means you're half… something else?"

"I'm half human and half vampire," Jez said quietly. The interesting thing was that it was so easy to get

out. She'd only ever spoken the words aloud to one person before: Hugh.

Now she looked to see if Claire would actually faint or just fall down.

Claire did neither. She just shut her eyes. "You know the really insane thing? I believe that." She opened

her eyes again. "But-I didn't know you could be. Half and half."

"Neither did anybody else, till I was born. I'm the

only one." Jez examined her cousin, realized that she really wasn't going to faint. When she spoke again,

her voice came out more challenging than she meant it to. "So now that you know, Claire, what are you

going to do about it?"

"What do you mean, what am I going to do?" Claire glanced around, then her voice dropped as her eyes

glinted with interest. "Look-do you, like, have to drink blood and everything?"

"Not anymore," Jez said shortly. What was this? Who would have thought that studious, straitlaced

Claire would have such an interest in vampires?

"But you mean you used to?"

"Before I came to live with you guys. I thought I was a full vampire then. But I found out that I could live

without it, as long as I didn't use my powers."

"You've got powers? Really? What kind?"

"No kind. Look, enough with the questions. I told you, I'm not a vampire anymore."

"And you're not evil." Claire said it flatly.

Jez looked at her, startled. "What makes you say that?"

"I heard what you were talking about, saving the world and all. I didn't understand it, but it sounded like

you were on the right side. And-" Claire hesitated, then shrugged. "And I know you, okay? I mean,

you're arrogant and stubborn and you never explain anything, but you're not evil. You just aren't-inside. I

can tell."

Jez laughed. A real laugh. She couldn't help it.

Of all people, Claire. She'd misjudged this girl

who was her own age but had nothing else in common with her. Her cousin had unexpected depths.

"Well, thanks," she said. "I try not to be too evil- these days." Then she sobered. "Look, Claire, if you

really think that, and if you really believe that the stuff you heard was true-"

"About the end of the world? I don't believe it. I mean, I heard it, and I believe you believe it-and when I

first heard it I kind of believed it, but-"

"Just-skip the rest and plain believe it, Claire. It happens to be the truth. And I'm trying to do something

about it."

"Something about a Wild Power, right?" Claire wasn't sagging anymore. She looked almost excited. "But

what's a-"

"You don't need to know. The point is that if you want to, you can help me."

"I can? Really?"

"You can help me by going back to school and forgetting that this ever happened. You can help me by

keeping my secret and not ever saying a word about this to anybody. And, incidentally, you'll be keeping

your family safe at the same time."

Claire looked away, worked her jaw. "This stuff you're doing is pretty dangerous." It wasn't a question.

"Very dangerous." Jez stepped back. "And I'm late for it right now. So do we have a deal? Will you help

me or not? Can I trust you?"

"Or otherwise you're gonna kill me, right?" Claire looked at her sarcastically.

Jez rolled her eyes. "Don't tempt me. Seriously, are you going to help?"

"No."

Jez froze, looking down at the shorter girl. "What?"

"Jez-don't get mad, but I don't think I can. Not that way." Claire was looking back up steadily, her small

face serious and surprisingly determined. 'I mean how can I possibly just walk away, after hearing all

that? If everything you said is true, how can I forget?"

"You can because you have to. We all do what we have to do." Jez looked around the station. Another

train should be coming any minute. She simply didn't have time to spend convincing a human to stay out

of business that would kill her. To properly explain it to Claire would take days.

All she could do was ask for something she never would have imagined Claire could give her.

"Claire… there's no way I can convince you or make you do what I want. But I'm asking you-" She let

out her breath and went on: "I'm asking you to trust me. I'm asking you to walk away and at least try to

forget this. And to believe that I'm trying the best I can to do the right thing."

Claire kept looking at her steadily for a moment. Then, all at once, the dark eyes filled. They turned

away, and Claire's throat moved once as she swallowed. Then, slowly, she nodded.

"Okay," she whispered. "I mean-it's okay for now. I mean, I guess I can talk to you later about it."

Jez let out her breath. "That's right."

Claire stood there for another second, then straightened her shoulders and turned away. But just as

suddenly she turned back, looking tense and almost explosive. "There's something I have to say to you."

Jez glanced down the tracks. No train. "Okay."

"It's-it's… that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I bugged you and tried to get Mom mad at you and everything. I

was just-I was jealous because they let you get away with anything, and…" She shook her head fiercely

and then went on, shrugging grimly as if she hated to admit it. "And, yeah, because you're so gorgeous

and confident and everything. It made me feel bad and I wanted to hurt you. So. Anyway. There. I'm

sorry."

She started to walk away, wobbling a little.

"Claire."

Claire paused, then turned around.

Jez spoke a little hesitantly around the obstruction in her throat. "It's okay. And thank you."

"Yeah." Claire grinned and gave a little shrug. "See ya later." She turned around and started walking

again.

See ya, Jez thought. She felt suddenly tired and strangely emotional. There was too much inside hen

sadness and relief and worry and a new feeling for Claire. She crossed her arms and looked around the

station, trying to relax, taking deep, even breaths.

And saw two werewolves coming straight for Claire.

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