Part 7: “Beware the Powers of Darkness” or Shapeshifter VariantsThe book was slowly pulled out of its home in the somewhat drier area of the carry-all, the spine worn from where it had been held open for too long and several yellow tabs, some newer then others, sticking out of a very concentrated section. He sat down on the makeshift bench/bed he’d gotten after acquiring the out-of-the-way hovel in the middle of Dartmoor and took up reading again.
Werewolves, the book said, come in many forms, though the change of forms differs depending on how domesticated or wild they are. Most werewolves, in wolf form, emulate the breed that is in their continent of origin. Most domesticated werewolves, unless coming with a pedigree, are often a mix of that wolf and various breeds of dogs, making them more like the wolf-dogs that also run wild or are bred for their exotic nature.
The man flipped a few pages ahead, falling on one of the tabbed pages. Werewolves generally have three forms: Human, Werewolf, and Wolf.
More pages skipped to another page that was flagged, this one speaking of the werewolf variants – specifically, one about a larger werewolf types.
It was late in the night, or very early the day after, Mr. Mycroft Holmes had been over to speak to Henry that John had his first violent nightmare.
Henry had to guess it was because of the change in John’s life, as well as the level of work that had gone on during most of the week, that had stopped their resurgence. Still, the fact that he’d been nightmare-free hadn’t stopped Henry from worrying over what might happen, and at the first half-covered whimper, he’d gotten up, listening to try and figure out what was going on before another, more human moan made him move to the wolf’s room, opening the door cautiously so as not to startle him.
Henry was surprised to see that John had partly transformed back into his Human shape, showing off short, blond hair and a compact and somewhat average build, making him almost look like a normal Human had it not been for the wolf’s tail he still had, along with fur running up his back and ending at the back of his neck, some spreading out along his sides. He was curled in a ball on the semi-destroyed bed, naked and obviously in pain from something. As Henry had only met those with silver-poisoning but never one who had actually gone through the rather hurtful procedure to remove it, he wasn’t sure if this was an effect or simply part of John’s psyche.
“John?” he managed quietly, the wolf stiffening as Henry moved to look at him, seeing the bleeding marks along his arms and the frightened blue eyes that stared at him, as if not sure what he was going to do.
“It’s alright,” Henry said quietly, slowly moving forward, “I’m not going to hurt you.” John whimpered again as he got close, Henry managing a small smile to try and calm him. “You’re hurt. I need to clean it, so it’s not infected. Let me get Barrymore--.”
John curled in on himself, another whimper escaping and Henry quickly scrapped the idea. “Ok. But we still have to clean those off, alright?” he managed to reach up and touch John’s head, slowly petting along his hair. John let out another whimper, this one more of loss and sadness then pain and fear, causing Henry to wonder if his last owner had done this for him, when and if he had nightmares before. “I have some stuff in my bathroom. Can you stand enough to go there?”
John didn’t answer, as if uncertain himself, Henry continuing to pet him and try to soothe him from whatever pain and fear he’d been experiencing. “I got you. I can carry you there, at least. It’s not far.”
Henry managed to help John stand, taking him into the adjoined bathroom to his own room and clean off the scratches and bites, noting at least one that probably had muffled a bad howl but ended up nearly taking out a good chunk of flesh. John looked at the wounds, helping how he could to bandage them with a professionalism that had Henry recalling that John had been a medic in the Army. It at least explained the fact that, as a wolf, he was such a good tracker – medic wolves were often taught in a similar vein as tracking wolves, though much of it was also similar to aide wolves as well. John would know how to bandage his own wounds, but it was obvious he was still a bit clumsy with his fingers and hands, having been a wolf for much longer. Henry had known some werewolves to have a preference, but not that it affected the other forms this badly. Still, he guessed it had been from whatever abuse John had been put through, and the depression that had followed.
Finishing up the bandage, John looked uncomfortable as Henry added, “I know you want to change back, but it might get infected, and it’ll probably help you readjust if you stay as a human. I know you feel like you’re safer that way, but nothing’s going to hurt you here.”
John shifted a bit at that, making Henry frown. “What?”
He watched the wolf let out a quick breath before touching his nose, looking at ground then at Henry. He either couldn’t talk right now, or didn’t really want to, so Henry would have to guess.
“You smelled something…on the grounds?”
John shook his head, pointing towards the door and making a gesture that seemed to indicate outside. “Outside the grounds, then…near where Uncle Charles died?”
A nod, John shifting a bit and his body language showing how uncomfortable he was with the situation and with himself. Henry made a note to call Doctor Agar in the morning, see if he could help him out with a good link to a website once the internet and wi-fi was up, as well as if there was any advice about the situation. Knowing what had happened to John, as well as having an idea of how to fix it, was the first step, but he also knew that he’d have to keep John either free of nightmares, if this was how he dealt with them, and in Human form.
“It’s ok. It wasn’t a werewolf, right?” another shake of the head. “There, no reason for us to be afraid of the werewolves, then.” He paused to consider, reaching over to pet John in the hopes it would calm him down. John did lean into it from his perch on the toilet, and seemed to relax a bit. He had, at one point, become more human and lost his tail, but the line of fur and other traces of him being a werewolf still remained, such as having fur that only mimicked human hair. Henry wondered if it wasn’t just part of his ancestry coming out – a few of the domesticated dogs bred with werewolves had hypoallergenic fur, and a result at times was that the Human form’s hair was really just fur. Of course, the wild wolves also had similar fur/hair types as well, so it could be that werewolves started to get the variation of hair and fur from breeding with the few lycanphiles that there were.
John remained in contact, though he tensed if Henry’s hand moved further down his neck, and Henry briefly wondered if Garrideb had been an abusive lycanphile. Lycanphilia was one of the many different fetishes that had a long ranging list of groups on both sides. Some felt that, because werewolves were sentient, then lycanphilia was similar to homosexuality or heterosexuality, with a few LGBT groups working for it to be recognized. Considering that some parts of Asia and Africa, mostly where the wereanimals were either the leading protectors or leaders of the village reigned, often viewed Humans who could not only be loved by the wereanimals but also keep up with them as “special” in various ways, that was the good part. The bad, however, was that in most countries, werewolves were considered pets and therefore animals, leaving lycanphilia as a very complex type of zoophilia or something else that was either scandal-material. The worst it got, however, was the fact that some werewolves were considered to either have a very complex version of Stockholm Syndrome or just been unable to say “no” to their masters. There had been a great deal of reports, before the SPCA and other organizations had stepped in, of sexual abuse in werewolf “farms”, as well as the fact that a good grouping of men caught for lycanphilia were also pedophiles, leading to a long series of laws that even the UN passed, stating a werewolf under 16 Human years couldn’t be owned without at least two adult werewolves present. It had also hurt some of the statements that werewolves made: many were so loyal to their owners that they couldn’t testify, no matter what they had to say, because a majority of them would try to lay blame on what they did or didn’t do.
Henry finally let out a small sigh. “Come on…can you get back to sleep?”
A shake of the head was all he needed. “Alright then. Let’s go make some tea downstairs, and look over the paperwork I have to finish up.” He slowly removed his hand from John’s hair, helping him stand and get into a pair of jeans that obviously had fit him at one point but were now loose and a thick wooly jumper before the two headed back downstairs.
At a relatively good hour for actually calling people, Henry made a call to Doctor Agar. John had, after some coaxing from both Lyons, the alpha of the wolf pack helping with renovations, and Henry, gone to help the group and watch over the construction. Medic and vet wolves were valued among the werewolf community, as they were taught to heal or sense someone in need of healing in any form. Even a wounded medic or vet was well-liked and trusted. Henry guessed that because of John’s shyness and underlying mental problems, the wolves would do what they could to ease him back into being in Human form, and because John was the first line of defense if the Hound was real and did appear, they wanted him ready and able to go.
“He’s human again?” Agar said, sounding relieved, “I’m glad you’ve been such a help to him.”
“I wouldn’t call a nightmare a ‘helpful’ thing.”
He heard Agar chuckle. “No, but his mind needs them. He’s dealt with a great deal, and the violent ones only started about five months ago, if his old owner was to be believed. Before that, he was perfectly fine. The old owner thought it might have been from a delayed reaction with a certain plant, and I have to say that it’s probably true.”
Agar paused before saying, “John used to be owned by a consulting detective, and was always on the run. It did wonders for John learning London and getting back into the habit of having someone to care for, like he’s had in the Army, but it also put him in danger as well. One of their first cases, I think, involved a man who was attempting to get his own wolf into a rage so he could have him put down.”
Henry had heard of those. A mixture of wolfsbane and some other item, usually silver or similar, as mistletoe and wolfsbane was too hazardous for anyone’s health. “The silver in John’s blood reacted badly, but not enough for him to come to the vet’s. A few weeks later, though, he had violent nightmares and felt a bit off. Considering that he was attacked by mistletoe during his final run with the detective, I thought this would mean wolfsbane and silver don’t just react badly, but also start to create mental problems.” Another pause. “Garrideb was…working on something like that.”
Henry recalled that Garrideb was the name of the man who had been arrested due to abuse, mostly because John had escaped it and gotten to someone in the police force or something similar. He knew he was the reason for John’s reactions, or at least part of them.
“What do you mean?”
“Garrideb and his assistant were working on seeing how wolfsbane affects healing werewolves. Garrideb was subtle about it, and despite what was done, some of the more…lenient nations…have allowed for partial publication. It appeared that mistletoe is very deadly because it weakens the wolves, but wolfsbane is bad because it messes with the chemistry of their minds. It’s like the studies on taking too much drugs, with paranoia and such coming out of that. The problem is that it depends on the variety and what the wolf’s been subjected to already. Those with trace elements or a history of trace elements in their blood, those who have been abused, or are recovering from being in a warzone – all of them have a more violent reaction, but it’s also depending on a trigger. Any wolf without those problems, who were just sick or injured but not very traumatized, react immediately but for a shorter period of time.” He stopped again. “The work that the assistant did wasn’t published.”
Henry frowned. “Should I ask why?”
“His was on what happened to introduced trauma during a session,” was all Agar said, “It varied, but didn’t change the fact that most of it wasn’t published because of what he did, as well as because it was done with unscientific methods.” Agar let out a breath, “John will probably have nightmares again if he’s reminded of the war or any other trauma. I’m guessing he thinks his old owner is dead because of what the brother allowed, and seeing him was the main trigger. The nightmares might last a few more days, and then he might get a bit irritated but he should be fine. There are some reports of hallucinations, but only in times of great stress, so watch out for those as well.”
Henry thanked Agar for his help, hanging up as he considered the information. He’d known that wolfsbane was a very different type of problem for werewolves, and had met up with a few Humans who had researched wolfsbane in the hopes of at least doing something for some werewolves who gained some of the very Human dementia diseases, or at least to understand the chemistry behind it. The main problem, of course, was getting volunteers and a wide enough range of werewolf types: those who had a more Human ancestry were not as prone to the same weaknesses as those who were wild werewolves or werewolves born in captivity, and bitten werewolves were a whole other can of worms.
Henry made his way to the main part of the Hall, watching the work and going over to where John sat, returning his shy smile before speaking to Barrymore about the progress.
“Sir, there have also been a few questions from some of the other residents in the area,” Barrymore said. Henry guessed that meant “people of the same socio-economic class within a fifty-mile radius”.
“Having a formal dinner in the house, as a sort of meet-and-greet,” Barrymore told him, causing Henry to frown, “It would be the Mortimers, the Stapletons, and Mr. Frankland only, sir.”
Henry knew there were more people in the area, but this only seemed to cement the idea of it being a SES thing rather then a full-on…well, anything. He’d have to try and throw a party later, probably during a major holiday and a few minor ones.
“Let me guess,” Henry said with a sigh, “Upstanding members of the community, all of them?”
“You met Doctor Mortimer,” Barrymore said, causing Henry to let out a long, annoyed sigh, “Mr. Frankland is retired and…eccentric.”
There came a snort from Lyons. “He’s my father-in-law, I think eccentric’s the nicest thing you could say about him.”
That caused Henry to frown. “Father-in-law?”
Lyons blushed a bit, coming over to join the two. “His daughter’s first husband…well, the short version ends with her being bitten. She came to live with her dad and he sent her to us, and then I married her. Nice guy, but one of those ‘I hate everyone equally’ guys. He’s a retired entomologist so he has a huge bug collection, but he took up being a professional lawsuit to the community. No one’s safe. He’s had something on your uncle, but not enough evidence. Currently, he’s trying to get Mr. Stapleton for opening graves without the written consent of the next-of-kin, with Stapleton pointing out he’s an archeologist so…” Henry chuckled a bit. “Frankland’s a good enough guy. We asked him to keep a lookout for the Hound, but he’s also not into mythological or spiritual stuff. If you want a good fight, ask him about that with Mrs. Mortimer around.” Barrymore seemed a bit annoyed at the idea as well, Henry looking at him as the older man answered, Lyons
looking ready to laugh.
“Mrs. Mortimer believes herself to be a…medium, sir. She’s requested an audience, in the hopes of…possibly contacting your uncle.”
Henry blinked, feeling confused, “Um, this is with the crystals and believing in fairies after the girls said it was cardboard cutouts type medium?”
Barrymore’s pained look was enough of an answer for that part. “Back to nature ‘organic everything’ type?”
Henry was silently grateful. He could only accept so many of those in a lifetime, and some of the national parks in America could often get a bit full of similar. Considering that you got an equal number of Second Amendment Rights/survivalists and the like as well, it almost evened out, but didn’t make the two groups any less annoying or troublesome for the park rangers, campground supervisors, or the packs of werewolves in the area.
“I might as well meet them, but not until this weekend. I’d rather have some time to finish everything up and plan ahead.”
Barrymore nodded, heading off as Lyons went back to help with the work and Henry headed over to sit next to John, who leaned a bit against him for comfort. He had good hearing, then.
“So,” Henry said casually, “do you know the rules for a formal dinner?”
Henry had a lot of problems with the formal dinner, the biggest current one being the fact that he needed to know how to tie a bowtie and the largest overall being how John would be fed and treated during the time. Most noble families and high society types had werewolves as caretakers for their children, bodyguards, or some other function that would work to their advantage. There were a few ‘model’ wolves, but it was more likely to be a small breed of dog that had originated in the Americas or Asia instead of the wolves. As far as hunting and similar activities, werewolves and larger dogs usually held that distinction.
But formal dinners were another thing. Most dogs and wolves were treated as fixtures by the people there, and at times wouldn’t get anymore then scraps at the dinner. It depended on the company, really, and so far the company had included at least two messages asking for John to be in his ‘traditional’ place.
Which meant if John was at the table or in the group’s presence, he’d only get a small meal and table scraps, if the guests were feeling like giving them to him, or any food that they didn’t want. John, despite still being silent on the matter, had gone to get the wrinkled suit from his belongings, Mrs. Barrymore cleaning and ironing it while planning on something for him for before the dinner that would, at least, keep him full should anything happen.
That didn’t stop Henry from being annoyed with the conditions, and considering breaking protocol…he’d looked it up and, considering that John had not only been abused earlier, but sick and below-weight, he was technically in his right to feed John the same amount. It would, at least, cover the bases as well, and keep within the ‘traditional’ boundaries. He’d discussed it with Barrymore and found that there was little to complain about, especially when John looked far too pale, even for his own complexion. Happy about that one small point, Henry let him do the rest while he got his suit ready and now had to deal with the bowtie.
John sat on the bed, already dressed and in a tie, watching with a small smile as Henry followed the instruction video for tying a bowtie. He was obviously amused and probably wanted to help but wasn’t sure if he should. Henry was fine with that, finishing up the bowtie and, letting out a sigh, turning to say, “Well, I guess we have to go and meet them.”
In hindsight, Henry should’ve had to mass invite party before the formal dinner. If anything, it would’ve allowed him to get away from most of the group. He didn’t know much about the Stapletons, other than finding out Mr. Stapleton enjoyed digging up bones and found the skulls of everyone, living people included, fascinating, while his sister had spent most of the evening giving Henry the look of someone who was about to be engaged, if not courted in some old-fashioned way, really quickly. The Mortimers were similar to how he remembered Doctor Mortimer, with his wife being similar to many of the other spiritual mediums that he’d met. They’d been a bit peeved at the fact that John was getting the same meal, but Henry explained that John had been ill and couldn’t afford to lose any more weight or to miss a meal. That, of course, had been enough to quiet the Mortimers, and Frankland had been a welcome if sometimes annoying ally. He’d apparently opened a few lawsuits against the others, including one against Uncle Charles that, while it hadn’t gone anywhere, would be reopened if Henry wasn’t careful.
The dinner had been long and somewhat tedious, but in general it wasn’t that bad. They’d protested but not enough for Henry to really get annoyed with his company just then, but instead it was after dinner that such things started. For one, Mrs. Mortimer wanted to attempt a séance to speak to Uncle Charles, which Henry refused on the grounds that he honestly wasn’t in the mood for anything of the sort and didn’t really believe in ghosts. Miss Stapleton hung onto him relatively tightly, which worried him even more.
What really annoyed Henry was a half-overhead conversation that Stapleton had taken up with John, despite the fact that John didn’t talk. He’d said he enjoyed skulls, and made a mention of seeing a photo of him and Sherlock in the paper once. “He interested me a great deal, your old owner. His skull…” Henry didn’t quite catch all the scientific terms, but Stapleton ended with, “A cast of his skull, should it ever surface, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum.”
John looked ill. Henry made his excuses, and was starting to push everyone out of the house when John suddenly stiffened and turned to the window just as a huge, black figure with a green glow and long fangs attacked the window and then left.
Henry managed to yell out “JOHN!” but didn’t get him to stop as he tore out of the house and into what was turning towards a harsh and howling rain-filled night.
It was the stupidest thing that John had ever done, leaving Henry alone – but Henry had the Barrymores to protect him, as well as Frankland at least. The man had no animosity to anyone, besides perhaps the man who’d turned his daughter into a werewolf, and both would keep him safe. However, this was something that John needed to take down, something that only John or another werewolf could find and stop.
He’d lost Sherlock because he was unable to kill Moriarty, unable to get out without being hurt. He’d failed Sherlock, but he wouldn’t fail Henry. He’d take down that beast, the thing that was attempting to give werewolves a bad name, and force the information out of him.
The storm was not enough for John to lose track of the glowing animal (he refused to think of it as a werewolf). He’d tracked in worst, albeit drier, conditions in Afghanistan, and wasn’t about to lose the thing in this storm.
He wasn’t that surprised when it turned and let out a low, primitive snarl, something in John causing him to falter briefly at the growl. He’d heard of wolves that were less Human, or had no Human side. There’d been rumors that some of the Nazi scientists had tried to make them, in an effort to have soldiers that would simply destroy anything on the battlefield, but most of that research was lost or considered
John was staring one in the face, he knew it. This was a barghest, a werewolf with no human side, only an animal instinct and, like one of those, it usually only answered to whoever trained it, and unlike werewolves and dogs, often was employed to kill.
This thing would kill Henry. It was here just for that reason.
John answered the snarl with one of his own. It was dangerous, becoming a wolf again, but he wasn’t about to let this beast near the Hall again.
When the barghest attacked, John was ready.
Henry had seen his guests out, mostly because none of them wanted to stay the night after seeing the ‘devil wolf’ and also because he couldn’t go out searching for John. Barrymore pointed out that the storm, as well as neither he nor Henry knowing the area that well, would just end up lost. So he’d stayed home and waited, eventually falling asleep in the chair downstairs.
It was somewhere near sunrise when he heard the knock, sitting up and suddenly awake as he jumped up, rushing to the door and opening it, spotting a man before he raced away, the darkness only telling him that the man was tall and wore a long coat that billowed behind him, and was probably thinner than average. However, Henry’s main concern now was what was on his doorstep.
John was Human and very pale, long scratches and deep bite marks standing out against his ruined suit and too-white skin. Henry manages to yell for Barrymore as he kneels, looking over him quickly to take in the damage as John stirs once, muttering something that started with an ‘s’ or an ‘sh’ and ended with a ‘k’ sound. A small note is nearby, getting wet on the stones but not enough to obscure the one word on it.
Cursing, Henry keeps the note and gingerly picked up John, yelling for Barrymore to call the vet. He rushed off, Mrs. Barrymore helping Henry get John into bed before he looked at the note again. On it were numbers, looking like map coordinates, and Henry decided that, in the morning, he’d have Lyons and the others see what was there.
John was still asleep, bandaged up from whatever fight he’d been in, when Lyons arrived after getting the information from Henry. If wolfsbane had been part of the fight, that would mean that some of the more Human werewolves, or at least the Human friends of the werewolves or even some of the owners, would have to search the area. Despite that, he looked impressed as he sat next to Henry.
“You’ve got yourself some wolf,” he muttered, “he took on a barghest.”
Henry frowned at the terminology, and then even more when it was explained. He’d heard of those types, but most American and other countries had their own names for them, and just as often they were only in South America so it was up to the local tribes to name it. Barghest was a purely European name for them, and one that unluckily fit with the mythology behind that animal.
“He’s pretty badly hurt, though.”
“I didn’t mention the huge patch of wolfsbane we found near one of the entrances to the Mire. Damned thing made a few of them sick. Laura was able to get close, said it looked like John had gotten the barghest and then fell down in the wolfsbane. Someone else pulled him out.”
It explained the man that Henry had seen, and he looked over at Lyons. “Was she able to follow a path?”
“No, she’s not that good at tracking, and the rest of us can’t get near the stuff,” Lyons paused as John stirred a bit, muttering something that sounded like a name before going back to sleep. “There’s a few cigarette butts nearby and the smell of someone else nearby as well. We’re guessing that this was the person you said dropped off John, and he’s probably living on the Moor in an abandoned house or something. Frankland’s looking around for him – he has a telescope and is an amateur astronomer, so…”
Henry still smiled at that, patting Lyons on the shoulder. “Thanks. It means a lot to me.”
Lyons gave him a small smile. “I’m glad to have someone with your influence on our side. Stapleton seemed like a nice person at the time when he moved in with his sister, but he wasn’t really all that helpful. He’s one of the archeologists that believes werewolves were descendants of Cro-Magnon man or whatever…another branch of humans, but inferior because of something or another. Said he did a thesis on it in college or something like that, a published paper or something, but I never found anything about it.”
Henry was silent a moment before he said, “Frankland said it was an abandoned house?”
“Yes. Somewhere nearby, I think, or at least near where the wolfsbane was found.”
“But far enough that it wouldn’t affect a wolf?”
“…what are you planning?”
Henry shifted and gave a smile. “Well, I have to thank someone who saw the fight and knew to bring John back, don’t I? And anyone living on the moor, alone and knowing to go that near the Mire at that time, would be able to tell me who it was that brought a barghest here, wouldn’t he?”
“He would, but you’re not going out al--.” Lyons paused. “You’re talking about me tagging along?”
“I can’t bring John. I have to bring someone to protect me…Barrymore’s busy, and I don’t trust any of the other people in the area. If we head out now and check, we might get back in time to see John wake up. The Vet said he’d be out for a few hours. Up for it?”
“This is a horrible idea,” Lyons muttered for the fifth time in as many minutes as Henry, nearby, looked at where the wolfsbane was being cleared away, picking up a fallen cigarette from far away and heading back.
“Look, whoever that guy is, he obviously knew who John was and who he belonged to,” Henry pointed out, “and he witnessed the fight. He might know about who it was that put the barghest in the Mire, and at least then we can start to take legal action, or figure out why.”
Lyons sighed, nodding as he sniffed the butt of the cigarette and then sneezed, the scent that came back being one of a person who’d travel over land and sea instead of air, apparently attempting to find or hide from something, and who had only recently picked up the habit of smoking again. It was an easy trail to pick up, Lyons nodding as Henry dropped the butt again and followed him as he traced it back. The smell was fairly distinct and, despite the hours it’d been since the man was in the area, Lyons could smell the worry and fear the man had experienced as he got nearer the area, odd as it extended further, and was tinged with later pangs of regret and a huge amount of worry. Whoever this man was, he’d been afraid for John and worried about him, as well as regretful of…something, probably the fact that he couldn’t help John or something else.
It hadn’t taken long for Lyons to follow the scent trail back to the house, Henry following close behind and watching the area, obviously a bit worried as they approached the area. It was hard to get to where the houses had stood, many now destroyed or the part-time home of the few squatters and vandals in the area. Many were open or the first place that people checked, at least in the old days, if a convict escaped, as they were far enough away to not be bothered or to hole up. With the Mire so close, though, they were also dangerous.
The house in question was one of the more habital ones, with an actual working door and facing in such a way that the wind would only be back a few times. Lyons was poised to knock when a voice came in through the window, sounding tired and almost bored. “Come in. There’s no lock on the door.”
Glancing at Henry, Lyons entered first, looking around before he saw the person, lying down on a camping cot and looking worst for wear. His hair was curled but cut short, dark against his pale and thin features, which was only accented on how dark the hair was and how pale he was by the dark coat he wore and the only slightly lighter blue scarf wrapped around his neck.
“You’re the one who brought John back,” Henry said, getting the man to glance at them, showing pale gray-blue eyes that were very wary, very tired, and very, very intelligent. Lyon’s now realized why it was that John had been slightly restless and trying to speak when most wolves would’ve just been quiet – this was his old owner. The amount of grief, fear for something besides himself, and almost palpable smells of reject and angry when Henry spoke said it all.
“I am. I was following a lead, and it brought me here, though I didn’t realize that tonight would be the night they strike.”
“Tonight?” Lyons asked, confused, “You mean last night.”
“No, please, do try to keep up,” the man sounded annoyed, “Last night was a trial run, as well as an attempt to get your wolf out of the way. Tonight will be the night they strike and kill Sir Henry.”
Henry froze, fear and uncertainty pouring off him while Lyons growled, “How would you know that, unless you were in on it?”
The man’s blue-gray eyes glared darkly at Lyons, enough to make him shift and look away as the man sat up, now glancing at Henry.
“You’re an idiot, by the way. Why did you leave John alone?”
“The Barrymores are with him, they won’t--.”
“They’re only two and they can easily be incapacitated, or killed to make the legend all the more realistic. And considering the second one was closer in size to John, they can easily say he woke up and was so badly affected by wolfsbane he killed everyone. It’s been documented before.”
Lyon’s couldn’t protest that. It was one of the many reasons wolfsbane had been banned in so many countries, and why some mixes of it were used to make werewolf fights more interesting. But still, to be sitting here waiting when he knew—
“I am here waiting because the person I gave a call to was a bit unhappy to hear about it, and can only do so much with the local constabulary. They’re ready to move, but they need proof, beyond what I could send them. As well, it has to be quiet: I’ve been on the run from some very dangerous men for these past three months, and do not want to run into them until I have the final piece, which required me to fix this.” He finally stood, obviously livid at the whole prospect, “And trust me when I say that when this is done, I’m going to have words with a few people, but for now, we’re going to make sure your new lord doesn’t get killed, and while we’re at it, we’re making damned sure my wolf isn’t killed either.”
It didn’t take long to get back to the Hall, Lyons being told to head back to his home and make sure everything was ok there, as well as to tell the other wolves to be ready near the Mire but away from the wolfsbane, in case one of the fugitives made a run for it. Henry could tell Lyons was angry at being ordered around so, but the man was very commanding and obviously stressed over what had happened. Plus, Henry hadn’t missed the way he’d said ‘my wolf’.
This was John’s old owner, who had disappeared and was presumed dead. The anger from what he’d said probably meant he wasn’t about to let Mycroft Holmes get away with what had happened, and considering all that had happened to John, including perhaps that he’d have thought his owner dead, they’d have to deal with it slowly, after Henry’s life was out of danger.
As they reached the path to the Hall, Henry finally spoke up, “You said this was the last thing, then you’d go back and take John with you.”
The man…well, Holmes at least for Henry, he’d never found out the first name, nodded. “I was able to keep in touch with Doctor Agar, but unluckily couldn’t influence...” he paused at that, looking down. “I couldn’t do anything without giving myself away, and I was in as much danger as John was. It’s not been an easy three months on either of us.”
Neither of them looked it, though at least Holmes was a bit of a better state then John for now.
“You don’t want me to take him,” Holmes pointed out as they headed up the path towards the main entrance, “You feel he’s recovering here.”
Henry let out a sigh, stopping to turn and face Holmes. “It’s not just that. He has recovered here, and dragging him back to London might not be good for him.”
“So his last psychiatrist said. He got rid of his limp, running after me.”
“He also got hurt worst and started having nightmares that made him change shape,” Henry argued back, “Ones that still plague him.” It was a low blow, but it needed to be said. “Look, I know you want to protect him, but you’re not doing that if you just come in and disrupt his life again. I know you want to get this all done so you can be free of…whoever it is trying to get you, and then John free of me, but that’s not going to happen. John’s still ill, and your disappearance, as well as your brother’s general disinterest in him and what he allowed to happen to John, isn’t about to make things easy. He’s not just going to go back to Baker Street with you.”
Holmes was silent a moment. “I know that, you idiot. Why do you think I bought him back here last night? If I could’ve, I would’ve taken him and just solved the crime, so we could go back. But it’s his choice.”
Henry blinked at that. Most owners didn’t allow their wolves to have a choice, but…”When he’s better. When he’s not jumping at shadows, and can actually talk, he’ll be given the choice. Until then, he needs rest. He needs a bit of quiet, even if all he does is watch over me.”
Holmes finally nodded as the two started on again, Henry slowly when he saw the door was open. Neither Barrymore would leave the door open.
Holmes cursed in French. Henry just plain cursed as they entered the front room cautiously, Holmes finally closing the door behind them and locking it. On the floor was fresh blood, trailing off to one of the side rooms with large paw prints in the trail.
Holmes had a gun out, looking around and then back to Henry. “Tell me you have some backup plan for if John was injured.”
Henry remained silent. His main plan had been to get help from the Barrymores or John, and briefly wondered where all the workers were. If anything, there should be a good helping of wolves in the area, but he didn’t see anyone.
“I see you don’t,” Holmes muttered in annoyance, pulling out a gun as they looked around, the whole of the place quiet before a voice sounded, saying, “It’s a fine house, Sir Henry. It should be mine.”
“It’s not,” Holmes yelled back, “and you don’t have any claim on it. You know that.”
“I know what’s owed me, and I’m supposed to be in this house, not that upstart. I’m the rightful heir! I’m Sir Charles’ child!” Henry nearly stopped at that, but continued to follow Sherlock instead as they got to the stairs, the echoing sound probably from a speaker or something similar. Holmes didn’t look that interested, instead yelling out, “How dull. Do you even know if you’re Sir Charles’ child? Considering your mother’s reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were Barrymore’s instead.”
There was a sharp growl from somewhere nearby, the voice saying, “Do you really want to get on my bad side? You don’t even know where I am!”
Holmes snorted. “I know everything. One of you is here, and the other is trying to scare us. You think you can easily blame the wolf in this household, say that after he woke up, he went mad with the wolfsbane and attacked everyone. That isn’t about to work out now, is it? After all, we walked through your track of blood. Where are the Barrymores, anyway? And the rest of the wolves? They weren’t sent away, meaning you were able to stop them. How can a lone wolf do that, when all of their weaknesses are his own? Or did you just think the local police would take your side because you’re Human, an upstanding member of the community, save for those few instances that people say you’re grave robbing.”
Henry did stop then, because a few things became glaringly obvious about what Holmes said as they got the top of the stairs, the sound of something walking downstairs alerting him to where the actual werewolf was.
“What I’d like to know,” Holmes said as they reached the door to John’s room, where he was recovering, “is how you hid your wife’s real nature for so long without anyone, the other wolves included, noticing. Or is that particular reason the one that caused her to go insane?”
The wolf let out a snarl as it raced up, the voice of Stapleton saying, “Ask her. I’m sure you’ll love the answer.” The voice disappeared as Henry opened the door, going in to see Watson awake, standing shakily despite the mass of bandages and his very pale outlook. He blinked, looking surprised when Sherlock got in, closing the door and locking it before putting a chair in front of it as the wood bent, heavy scratching sounds signaling that the wolf had followed them upstairs.
“Sh—sh…” John tried, Henry moving over to support him.
“It’s ok,” Henry told him, making sure the door to his own room was locked down, “Do you know what happened?”
John, eyes still on Holmes, shook his head as Holmes scoffed. “He only just woke up, and was only recently that he was able to stand.” He managed a quick glance at John as the wood started to crack against the assault. “Let’s get out of here alive before I explain anything,
“o-oh-…kay.” John managed, his voice a bit rough from disuse but in general one that was calm and assured, or at least it sounded like
that to Henry. Motioning to the door that lead to his own room, Henry slowly started to shift as Holmes instead jumped back, in time to another attack on the door and reached it first. John looked panicked when it appeared he was going to leave, and visibly relaxed when Holmes reappeared and silently shut the door, Henry watching the other one as Holmes looked around and there was a howl of frustration.
Henry’s mind was racing. Who’s blood had they seen? Where were the Barrymores, or the other wolves? A grouping of them could take out this one wolf better than he and Holmes could, and he knew they were working today, so what had happened?
“Stapleton,” Holmes answered the unspoken question, “He was able to grow wolfsbane on the Moor, you don’t think it wouldn’t be above bringing it to ensure his pet wolf got the job done?”
John swallowed, looking ready to talk as the door to the Hall started to receive its own treatment of attack. “mm…mma”
“Madness?” Holmes asked, getting John to nod as the door bent in again. “That would explain why it’s so set on getting us, even with wolfsbane in the home.” He paused again, “Are you doing alright, John?”
John nodded, Henry still holding him up as they moved back, Holmes taking the safety off his gun. “I know you dislike silver, John, but unluckily I had to take this precaution.”
Henry shifted backwards, John appearing very worried as Henry’s door once more bent under the assault. “What about the other wolves?”
“I’m not going to shoot them.”
John shook his head, as if trying to figure out how to say something. “nuh…no, not…wha—where are…”
Holmes shifted, as the door bent again, this time part of the paneling being scratched out as bitten into. “I’m not sure. Considering the Stapleton’s use of wolfsbane…” he paused as the door bent again, more of the wood splintering off as they now got a better look at the wolf. It was huge and black, something on its fur to make it glow a whitish color that reminded Henry of one of his odder friends from college, a woman who used matches instead of a lighter to start smoking her unfiltered Camels. She said that matches once has phosphorous in them, and were dangerous because it had caused people, after a long period of time, to have soft bones. Why would anyone put it on a wolf?
Because the Hound of the Baskervilles glows, Henry thought as he backed away at the next assault, Holmes still in front with the gun raised, yelling at the wolf that the bullets were silver and to have some sense, while John, still shaky and obviously in need of rest, still held Henry’s shoulder but was a bit in front of him, obviously ready to throw himself at the new threat, no matter what the consequences. Henry had an odd feeling that, despite everything John had gone through, he’d defend Holmes against anything, and would defend Henry only because Holmes was also here and because Henry was also his current owner. It wasn’t so much that Henry was sad about that, but more that he simply resigned himself to that. John was, after all, Holmes’ wolf.
Holmes was getting ready to shoot when the wolf turned and snarled at something or someone, the sound of some sort of gun or something going off nearby and causing Henry to flinch, John moving in front of him as Holmes lowered his gun, a new face looking in through the hole in the door before it opened to reveal a man with peppered gray hair and a haggard look, relaxing a bit when he saw them.
“We’ve got the wolf, and were able to get everyone downstairs.” He opened the door, revealing himself fully as John relaxed, Holmes saying, “What about Stapleton, Lestrade?”
“Could we at least try a ‘hello, Lestrade, thank you for not disbelieving that message was really from you’, or maybe something like ‘Lestrade, how nice of you to help me when everyone else thought you were dead’.”
Lestrade let out a sigh, obviously annoyed but resigned and perhaps a bit grateful. “You’re an idiot, you know that? I shouldn’t even be here, saving you from crazed wolves when you’re supposed to be a down at the bottom of some great waterfall with that psycho you helped us catch a few months ago.” He walked past him to Henry and John, smiling at John before holding out a hand to Henry. “Sir Henry, I’m Detective Inspector Lestrade, from Scotland Yard. Sherlock called me in to help handle the case.”
“I’m glad he did,” Henry said, returning the handshake, “What about…I mean, is everyone ok?”
Lestrade slowly nodded. “One of the wolves was attacked when he opened the door, but everyone’s going to be ok. The other team was able to get some stuff on Stapleton, but beyond that I haven’t heard if they got him or not.” He turned back to Holmes, saying, “Tell me you don’t have silver in that gun.”
“If you hadn’t come sooner, it would be the last resort,” Holmes put in, obviously annoyed, “I’m not going to hurt John.”
Lestrade nodded, as if understanding, and gave John a smile. “I’m glad to see you back on your feet. Let’s at least get you downstairs to
the vet, though.”
It didn’t take long for report to come in that Stapleton had fled into the Mire, a few of the wolves who hunted there helping the policeman try to find his scent, but as it ended where there was a bog, the group could only guess that he’d died while fleeing. His wife was able to give an account of Sir Charles’ transgression, that Stapleton had been labeled a werewolf when he wasn’t, and that only by traveling to another country and taking a new name had he been able to escape it, and he took her as a wife and she was willing to kill for him.
Sir Henry was obviously someone who grew up around wolves, as his care for them was immediate and his fear over their well-being nearly palpable. Learning the story about his uncle seemed to make him morose, but beyond that, Sherlock couldn’t see anything wrong with him either. He appeared willing to do what he could for the werewolf community, but also wasn’t going to drop the charges against Mrs. Stapleton.
“It wasn’t yours,” he told her, “you and he should’ve tried the legal way. I would’ve allowed you to have the property. But I’m not going to pardon you when you were so willing to hurt everyone.”
She snarled at him as they took her away, attempting to bite at John and get him to jump, but instead he growled, a deep, dark sound that got her to flinch instead, the vet waiting before warning him that he couldn’t take her in a fight.
“He probably could,” Sherlock said, walking up as Henry did, “I’ve seen him do some rather remarkable things.” John ducked his head, blushing as Henry gave Sherlock a smile.
“So,” he asked after the vet once more told John that he’d better rest because he needed it to recover and headed over to another, younger wolf who’d been exposed to wolfsbane for the first time, “why did you die? Well, why are you alive again?”
Sherlock gave him a small glare before letting out a sigh. He would have to explain this, and Lestrade was close enough to listen in if he wanted to. “When I set about to stop Moriarty, after John was put in a coma by one of his bombs, I realized the danger in this. My brother had not heard a great deal about him, or at least Moriarty’s role was downplayed, meaning that someone he trusted was on Moriarty’s payroll. That he held all the criminals under his sway, or was known by all of them, meant I had to work either just an angle from England and let the waves take others away, or do it worldwide. I figured out that Moriarty had at least three major generals in his group, and was able to confirm it. I’ve been able to get the first two out, but the last one was near Mycroft…my brother. I may hate him, but I’m not about to let him get hurt because of me. Mummy would be angry.” John leaning against Sherlock’s shoulder was the only sign that he’d obviously been lying a bit, and was a little worried about him. “I had to hide from everyone, so I couldn’t use money from my old accounts, or contact anyone with my real name, or even check on John. My brother is many things, but when it comes to me, he’s very predictable.” At this, he reached up to pet John, happy to see him sigh and relax under his hand. “If I had contact, they’d know because…” This was far harder then he thought. “He bought John for me. He said he’d do…bad things…to John, if I ever died. Mycroft wouldn’t have done these things if he knew, even vaguely, that I was alive.”
Henry frowned, obviously annoyed. “So you let that happen?”
“I cut off all communication. I didn’t know until I returned to England, and looked into his new owner. When I found out what was going on, I realized it was my chance, and hid on the Moor to watch over you both. I planned to get the proof and have Stapleton get arrested, but after I figured out his wife was an unregistered werewolf, and the attack on John…”
Henry gave a small smile at that. “You’re right, he is underestimated, isn’t he? Taking down a barghest is pretty big.”
John hid his face against Sherlock’s shoulder, Sherlock petting him gently as Henry moved to also give him a small stroke of his hair, causing John to shiver a bit, though Henry wasn’t sure if he was attempting to relax or was having a bad flashback and so removed his hand.
Sherlock nodded a bit, trying to not disturb John as he hid. “I know. Still, I knew what was going on, and called Lestrade to take care of this. I asked Gregson to take care of the other.”
At that, Lestrade turned, frowning. “Wait…someone up that high was a hidden werewolf?”
“He was being blackmailed by the Stapletons, and possibly by another blackmailer that I’ve noticed before. I doubt that blackmailer will live long, though…it’s not a type of life that promotes longevity.” Lestrade snorted. “Yes, it’s also not something to have as a job, either, not in this day and age.” He finally wandered off as Sherlock returned to petting John, apparently attempting to calm him down enough to stop hiding. “Mycroft will probably suspect something. I expect him here tomorrow.” He gave a rather dangerous grin at that. “You know, I think I might even pay a trick on him…for what he did to John.”
Henry frowned at this, and John shivered a little, shifting closer to Sherlock as if to try and dissuade him from that plan. “He’s your brother.”
“I know. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let him forget what he did.”
Sherlock had predicted his brother would be around the next day, and he was, his assistant typing away on the blackberry as he looked around the area. John, still recovering and anti-social, was in his room and resting, while Lestrade and the other policemen had left to process the case, promising to call when the trial date was set.
“Sir Henry,” Mycroft said with a nod as he walked in, obviously still stuck in the old-fashioned idea that a servant should answer the door, “I heard you had a spot of trouble yesterday.”
“Yes, I was lucky the Detective Inspector came when he did. John had just killed a barghest and fell into some wolfsbane, so he’s not quite recovered from all that yet.” Granted, it was probably mean to remind Mycroft Holmes of John or his abilities, but honestly, Henry didn’t like Mycroft Holmes that much, and the dislike was just enough to actually go along with Sherlock’s plan.
“Anyway, Mr. Holmes,” Henry said, “about the paperwork?”
Current Location: United States, New Mexico, Albuquerque
Current Mood: chipper