Journey to Hell - 12 | i

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Ava was back in the Mountain. She ran into Zigor and Ichiro as they made their rounds. Preparations were on in earnest to create the New Colony. Marx was finally facing the fact that there was not going to be a happy accord with the humans. Their collective fears outweighed their common sense, and that meant more deaths on both sides. Pulling back from them was the only way to have some resolution to the problem. Squashing the dispute with the humans would free up their resources to focus and take down the real threats—Salvay and his ever elusive partner Passerini.

"Heard you were back," Zigor said. "In more ways than one."

Dressed like the others, Ava no longer wore her cloak. It had been more for a disguise than fashion. With a solid form, she could move about without the garb to keep her unstable form hidden. Ava could dress like the others did and although Anabella wanted her head on a spike, the other woman was gracious enough to give her free rein of her closet.

She touched the fractal scarring on the side of her face. "They told you what happened?" The question was for Zigor. He was with the expedition that went to the Zanu Desert in search of Sven and Salvay. In a fight with the revenants, Zigor sustained injuries. Facing death, Penny changed him to save his life.

"You mean how you scared them half to death? I'm glad I wasn't conscious to see it."

Ava was happy she had no memories of it.

"And how goes the change?" Ava asked them. There was an evolution taking place with the werewolves; now there were four kinds. The ones that started out as pure hearts, the ones that Sven changed and the ones that Penny changed. Zigor and Ichiro being the only two from the latter. The two men before her had eyes like wolves. From what Marx told her, that was their constant state. Then there was the fourth—Penny herself. A true anomaly among them.

"Can't complain," Ichiro said.

"Except," Zigor added, looking at his friend, "the whole losing your clothes when you change thing."

Laughing, Ava said, "This might sting."

Moving her fingers in the air, Ava formed a rune in the space between her and the men. She directed it towards Zigor. It disappeared through his shirt. He hissed rubbing the spot on the left side of his chest. Ava repeated the same process with Ichiro. Taking a step back, she said—

"Give it a try."

Both men changed into their werewolf forms then reverted to their human forms again. Their clothing remained intact. Ichiro as always was composed while Zigor was bouncing off the trees excited. Ava stood watching the men as they walked away, Zigor chattering and Ichiro shaking his head. It felt good to be—home. To be around the people she trusted and cared for the most. People who could make her smile in the midst of all the tension. At the same time, it hurt. She knew they were tiptoeing around her, doing their best not to ask about Daniel and the unfortunate case of his absence. A warmth stirred in her belly. She laid a palm flat over it.

"Soon. I'll fix it."

"Fix what?"

Ava faced Garrick as he walked over to her.

"Nothing," Ava lied. He raised an eyebrow, but he didn't call her out on it or push for the truth. "I hear you can change again."

He scratched his head. "Hurts like hell, but yeah."

"It shouldn't hurt."

"Never did before the whole stripping of the wolf thing."

"I'm so sorry to hear that."

Garrick made light of his problem, but Ava knew it was no small deal. In a fight, the wolf who could change the fastest lived the longest. "Marx is taking it harder than I am," he said.

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