Wolf Pact


Page 17


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"What is that?" Lawson asked.


She shrugged. "I have no idea."


"I think maybe you need to tell it where you want to go," Malcolm said helpfully.


"Take us to Rome," Lawson ordered, and a passage opened before them, shining bright in the darkness.


Chapter Thirty


The light and the passage disappeared, and when Bliss opened her eyes, she saw that she was in a small stone room with bars on the windows. "Where are we? A prison?" she asked.


"No ... a monastery, I think," Lawson said, frowning. "But we're not in the right place or the right time. Look."


Bliss looked out the window to a grand canal dotted with gondolas and speedboats, people rushing about on the cobblestone streets with umbrellas.


"Where are the monks?" Ahramin asked, taking a seat on a stone step.


"They're gone, I think only the tourists are left," Malcolm said, reading a plaque by a velvet stanchion at the end of the room. "It must be Tuesday, when the museums are closed, otherwise we'd be surrounded by them."


"We're close," Bliss said, comforting Lawson. "Venice isn't too far from Rome."


"When I make portals ... I just imagine a space in my mind ... I thought it would be same here," he said, biting his fingernail.


"These portals you create, they must be part of the passages somehow," Bliss said.


"Maybe, I don't know. All I know is I can picture myself somewhere else, and then a path appears in front of me. I thought using the chronolog would be that easy."


Bliss nodded. She had an idea. When the Visitor, Lucifer, had taken over her mind and she'd been able to see his memories, she'd had no control; she couldn't call up a memory at will. But the images she'd seen of Allegra's memories felt different, and she wondered if maybe it was possible for her to summon them at will, if she focused hard enough. She'd have to be careful how she explained herself, though; she still wasn't sure what would happen if Lawson ever discovered her true parentage, and now wasn't the time to find out. She stared at the chronolog. "I think my mother had one of these once, and sometimes I can access her memories," she said.


"How?" Lawson asked.


She shook her head. "I don't know, all I know is I can feel her - guiding me - and I think that maybe if I concentrate, I can remember a little more, see how she used it." She took a seat on the stone step next to Ahramin, who gave her some space. Bliss closed her eyes and focused. Tell me, she thought. Please, if you know anything, please tell me. Show me.


At first all she could see was darkness. But then the darkness blurred, and a light began to shimmer, and she saw Allegra pick up the chronolog again and open it. The disc had stopped spinning and looked more like a regular watch, but with three different hands, and the numbers at the edge of the circle were in multiples of thousands, hundreds, and tens. Layered over the whole disc and its hands was a map, and Allegra maneuvered the hands on the chronolog to certain positions.


Bliss opened her eyes. "I think I know how to do this." She took the chronolog and pressed the button, then waited for the disc to stop spinning. "You see these hands?" She pointed them out. "One set refers to time, measured first in thousands and then hundreds of years, then decades. You have to set it like a clock - see this knob? You wind it so the hands move," she said, adjusting it. "Now these other hands, with the images of the continents behind them? They represent longitude and latitude. The trick is to line up the time and place you want at the same time, then press another button on the side."


"So we just have to set it to the right time and co-ordinates, then press the button and we're there," Malcolm said excitedly. "We can do this!"


"Not so fast," Lawson said. "Anyone know the date? Or the coordinates?"


Malcolm's face fell.


"We can find those things," Rafe said. "If this is a monastery, there's got to be a library here, with a set of encyclopedias."


"I'll help," Bliss said, and followed Rafe down the stairs. They walked around the empty monastery until they reached a room at the end of the hallway that was blocked off from museum tours. "I think this is it," Rafe said, opening the door marked BIBLIOTHECA.


The room was covered with dust and lined with bookshelves. A little typewriter sat on an antique desk. Rafe whistled, and nodded to a shelf that contained a full set of the Encyclopædia Britannica. What she wouldn't give for the Internet right now, she thought; they'd have their questions answered in seconds.


"I'll look up the year, you take the location. Okay?" she asked Rafe.


"Sounds good to me."


Rafe's job was easier, she knew - all he had to do was look up Italy and he'd find everything he needed, and he did. "The coordinates for Rome are latitude 41 degrees 54 minutes north and longitude 12 degrees 30 minutes east." He smiled at Bliss. "Malcolm will be able to figure out how to set it if we can't."


Her task was trickier - she had to figure out the year of the feast in which Romulus had held the first Neptunalia, when the Sabine women were captured. Should she look up Rome? Romulus? Neptunalia? Sabine women? She finally found what she was looking for in an entry entitled "The Rape of the Sabine Women." She realized that later scholars changed their theories about what had really happened on that day - and that "rape" had been just another word for "kidnapping," which was why the painting had been called The Abduction of the Sabine Women when she'd seen it in the museum.


"Have you found anything?" Rafe asked.


"Almost there," she said. The information was pretty confusing, and she wasn't sure how trustworthy the date the encyclopedia listed was. "It says eighth century BC, but the dates are a little vague. As best as I can tell, it was 752 BC. I'd hate to be off, though - who knows where we'd end up?"


"If that's the best information we can find, it's better than nothing," Rafe said.


They headed back to find the group in heated discussion. "We're trying to figure out what Romulus has to gain by killing all of those women," Lawson said.


"Does anyone have a theory?" asked Bliss.


"Not exactly. But I'm pretty sure it has to do with all the things that have been changing lately. It's not just the Gates of Hell that are falling - that's part of it, but it's more than that," Lawson said.


"Like what?"


"Mac, you want to take this one?" Edon said.


"The oculi being lit, the dark roads being discovered. Like Marrok said, they seem to be signs that the power of the wolves is returning, and I think Lucifer wants to go back and stop it. If the wolves get their power back, it will be harder, if not impossible, to keep turning us into hellhounds," Malcolm said.


"The ancient wolves were immortal, right?" asked Bliss. "Romulus was a wolf, yes? Before he was a hound. One of the ancients."


"Yes." Lawson nodded.


"But all the wolves - like you guys - can breed. You can have pups."


"Litters, even," Ahramin added drily. "It's why we're all close in age."


Bliss looked at them, her face flushed with excitement. "I know who the Sabines are."


Lawson looked at her expectantly.


"Only mortals were given the gift of procreation. Vampires cannot procreate, they only reincarnate in new bodies for every cycle. But you can breed, and while you have extraordinary strength and power, you are mortal, which means the ancient wolves - the Praetorian Guard - the Romans - bred with human women. The Sabines are your human mothers."


"And Lucifer ..." Lawson said, his face growing darker.


"Wants to kill you all. He wants to stop wolves from being born. Especially one of you," she said, looking directly at Lawson.


"What?"


"Isn't it clear? He has to stop you from being born. Erase you from the timeline, from history. Lucifer will sacrifice his whole army for it, all his hellhounds, rather than risk the rebellion and the chance that you might live to fight for the other side."


"What are you talking about?"


She was breathless with her own realization.


"You are Fenrir. The great wolf whom legend has foretold will free the wolves from slavery and return them to the glory of the true Praetorian Guard."


There was silence as the group digested this new information. Bliss saw Lawson's brothers look at him in a new light, and even Ahramin was gazing at Lawson with a respectful air.


Lawson frowned and crossed his arms, looking uncomfortable with all the attention. "You don't know that for sure."


"But think about it," she said. "You can enter hallowed ground, and you can make portals through the worlds, something the other wolves can't. And you said so yourself, after your escape there were many others who followed your path to freedom. 'We freed ourselves.' You certainly did. Marrok knew who you were. It was why he encouraged you to escape, why he risked stealing the chronolog. Because it was time. Because you are Fenrir."


"Well then," Malcolm said. "What are we waiting for? Let's go to Rome."


Chapter Thirty-One


Lawson kept his eyes on Bliss as she held the chronolog in one hand and used the other hand to position all the hands on all the faces, lining up the dates and the latitude and longitude positions and then pressing the button on the side of the device. The gears below started to whir and the arms descended onto the points. The device began to buzz, its gears grinding like those of a windup toy.


Entering the timeline felt different from before. The previous trips through the passages had been dizzying, with the bright light rendering Lawson unable to see their movement through history, but now it was as if the chronolog was physically moving him, stopping on occasion in locations that clearly weren't Rome, at least not yet.


One pause: he felt a warm fire at his back and the chill of a winter breeze at his face. Up ahead he saw footprints in the snow. A pair of figures stood in the distance. They wore heavy coats of fur and walked on snowshoes around a circle of tall stones. The image receded. His head ached and his ears felt funny. He turned to Bliss, but before he could speak, the darkness of the passage enveloped them once more as they moved through the timeline.


Another pause: now there was light snow on the ground. They stood in the center of another circle of stones. Beyond the gray monoliths, Lawson saw an earthen mound and a pit. It looked like another portal, another entrance to the passage, just like the serpent mound.


One more: the air darkened, and when they stopped again, Lawson was standing in front of a grouping of stones. They were arranged in long rows. He turned around to see Bliss, Rafe, and Malcolm, who looked dazed. Edon and Ahramin were not far behind.


Lawson tapped Malcolm on the shoulder. "Where are we?"


"I don't know," Malcolm said. "I think we're in France. Maybe Carnac." He placed his hand on the gray stone. Fresh chisel marks littered its rough face.


The light dimmed again, and the darkness returned. Lawson closed his eyes, then opened them to see stars streaking through the black void of the passage. No more pauses now; they were moving quickly through time, through a long patch of nothingness that continued until his whole body ached. He wished for the journey to end, though he knew things would only get harder once they stopped. He clenched his teeth, and his mind lost track of how long they had been traveling.


"It's okay, we're here," he heard a voice say after what seemed an eternity. "Open your eyes."


Lawson felt a warm hand on his back. Bliss. He opened his eyes to a bright Mediterranean sun. In the distance he saw snowcapped mountains stretch downward to a city that was nestled amid seven hills. They were finally in Rome, at the beginning. Red banners stretched from all the buildings; the streets were packed with carts; the buildings' limestone facades shone in the sun. This was the city at its very first breath. This was the dawn of the empire.


They were standing on a third-story balcony overlooking the city. The street below connected to a vast piazza; in the open space a large crowd gathered at the steps of a grand building. At the top of the steps, a red-robed figure, flanked by a group of centurions, waved a golden staff. Everywhere red banners waved in the warm sun as soldiers paraded down the avenue carrying a statue of a ferocious-looking man with a long flowing beard and a trident in one hand.


"Neptune," Malcolm whispered. "You did it. We're here."


"What do we do now, though?" Bliss asked.


"We'll need to blend in," Ahramin said, taking charge. "We can't go out there like this." She indicated their grimy outfits. "Split up - Edon and I will check the lower floor; Mac, you and Rafe check this one. Lawson - you and Bliss whistle if you hear anyone. I think everyone's out at the festival, the place feels empty. I bet not even the servants are around."


Lawson nodded, a bit annoyed that Ahramin was giving orders, but she knew the lay of the land better; as a hound, she had been privy to the old traditions.


He squinted out the window, at the giant robed figure waving his golden staff. Romulus. How strange to think that something that had happened in the past had been caused by an event that was far off in the future. His birth. Was Bliss right? Was he the one? He remembered what Master Corvinus had said - that he was special, that he was to be Romulus's heir. Lucifer had foreseen it himself. The Dark Prince had ordered him turned into a hound before he could fulfill his true destiny.


Everything was hanging in the balance - the past, the future, his life, and the lives of everyone he loved. He didn't want to fail. He thought about the shifting images on the postcard, from kidnapping to murder. History was unfolding before his eyes, and it was his responsibility to make sure the timeline remained intact. He was a wolf, a guardian of the abyss. A keeper of time. He watched Romulus leave the podium, followed by two of his guards. Hounds, most likely. Where was Tala? She had to be close by.

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