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Terror of Tuhloon

March, 2005

Chapter 17: The Cold


 

Serje had managed to cut off part of the group and Tonja as he had originally planned. The problem was, he had no idea where the second hunter had gone. When Serje had first caught Tonja's scent on the wind, he had found where her escorts had taken her and there were two hunters guarding her. Now the Serje had circled further ahead in front of them, there was only one.

Where had the other hunter gone?

Serje knew he was vulnerable and that he was taking a huge risk. The bridge he had found no doubt lay in the very path that Tonja was being guided. Serje would have to be swift, killing the hunter and capturing her to grant her a horrible death.

His ear was throbbing painfully and Serje thought about how something as harmless as holy water was so lethal to him, a bane against his very existence, a poison to his bloodstream. How had it come to this? If holy water was so deadly to him, how far had he gone for revenge, how corrupt had his soul become? Serje was beyond merely renouncing God; he was now an agent of evil set against anything good and wholesome, a Demon in his own right. Had he fallen so far away from humanity?

For a few minutes, Serje was clear of mind, able to ponder beyond his urgent need for blood, through his tugging desire to kill Tonja. He thought about how special she had been to him, how gentle and loving his grandfather had been. Serje realized that his prayers had been answered, maybe not in the way he would have liked, but there really was no need for him to become the beast in the first place. He had begged the heavens to become accepted by his peers at school and he had, through his own merit by scoring so high on the testing. Serje had also prayed for friends, someone he could spend time with and share good memories by. Tonja had shown up at the dirt bike track and had befriended him.

Clarity of mind was crushing to Serje, not because he had turned away from what he was raised to believe in Christianity, but because he had turned away from who he really was. Regardless of whether he had accepted or kept his faith, Serje had no doubt shunned the person he had become, the best friend to Tonja and the good grandson to his grandfather.

Standing in the fog, beneath the cloud choked gray sky, Serje felt a burning regret, a crippling shame wash over him like a great heavy tidal wave which threatened to drown him. His desperate thoughts of lamenting gradually settled to the priest he had met earlier, Father Vincent. The priest had told him salvation was still possible. Was it really?

Even if Serje was able to save his eternal soul, what of the life he had left? He had still committed multiple murders, performed awful methods of torture upon his tormentors. Even if his soul was intact, could the priest somehow absolve Serje of his crimes as well? Could he keep Serje from spending the rest of his life inside of the Russian prison system?

There was an awful voice that suddenly invaded Serje's mind. It was booming, deep and angry, bestial to the point of unintelligible guttural grunts and growls. Serje knew it was the beast attempting to communicate with him, to discourage him from seeking help from the priest and the hunters. After the simple and compelling task of ridding himself of Tonja, there was at least promise of a regular life afterward, whereas the path of salvation only assured Serje of imprisonment for the rest of his natural life.

Serje struggled to maintain clear thought. The beast was trying to take over his mind so that even rational thought would be locked away from him. Serje resisted.

Serje felt threatened, not by the hunter who was slowly approaching, but by the beast within. He felt that the beast wasn't just trying to take over his body, not just attempting to capture his mind, the beast was trying to completely consume him so that nothing human would remain. Serje felt that if the beast fully took control, he would cease to exist as a person.

Serje strained against the bloodthirsty fury. It felt as through the beast was clawing it's way through his center core, attempting to surface and overtake Serje's control. He wanted to cry out from the pain but he held it in, the agony of feeling torn apart from the inside. Serje fumbled for the wolf skin belt, undoing it and letting it fall to the snowy ground. As he transformed back into his human shape, Serje felt the beast slipping away, it clawing and violent thrashing within him slowly faded. The pain subsided.

Serje had the opportunity to do the right thing which was to accept the consequences of his actions and to spare Tonja a gruesome death. Serje knew that the hunter escort was just on the other side of the bridge. He hurried in that direction. Serje had finally decided. He would turn himself in, surrender, be killed, if need be. Whatever the cost or consequence, he would not lose control of himself again.


 

* * *


 

Father Vincent was technically an unofficial member of The Three. His participation in their exploits was limited, but was required more often than the priest would have wanted. His main duty was to bless all the armaments of The Three to make them useful toward supernaturals. Father Vincent had received special permission from the Bishop in his diocese to attend these frequent travels chiefly because The Three paid for everything.

There were other duties, of course, such as comforting the victim's family, praying for the departed and performing the last rites for the dying. These obligations Father Vincent had taken on himself as part of his priesthood. He had rarely engaged in any confrontations with the supernatural, saving the actually battling to the experts. On this occasion, since Father Vincent had met Serje, spoke to him and offered him comfort, he felt a driving need to do more. Whereas The Three only knew Serje from description by people who knew and loved him, Father Vincent had looked directly into the boy's soul and saw the goodness being overrun by the bad.

Father Vincent was convinced that Serje was a good person who had made bad choices and that his soul was still salvageable. Salvation was at the upper most priority as to why he had become a priest so that he was even willing to risk his own safety to save Serje's soul. After monitoring the satellite display, Father Vincent became frustrated at just sitting around. He had searched the command center and found a set of keys. Walking outside, he found a second SUV parked out front of the hotel.

Father Vincent usually used public transit to get around when he needed to. It had been over a decade since he had last driven a vehicle. He didn't care about the risks, he had to do something not only to save Serje's soul, but also to help Tonja and Sephon who were both in bad shape.

Outside of the hotel, Father Vincent was surprised to find people hanging out, smoking, talking, walking on the freshly shoveled sidewalks, people still entering the hotel to visit the pub despite the heavy snowfall. The horrible weather had done little to deter the Russian people from their social planning. The sky was ugly, promising even more snow. For now, at least, there was only a light dusting of flakes falling.

A heavy snowplow vehicle was parked off on the side of the road, a block away from the hotel, its yellow beacon lights flashing. Father Vincent hurried over, knocking on the passenger window until the driver appeared. The driver's face was dubious, his expression hardened by many days of difficulty. Father Vincent knew that the only reason the driver didn't blow him off was because of his priest's collar.

In broken Russian, Father Vincent tried to ask the man to plow the mountain road leading to the abandoned mine. He must not have asked correctly because the man only frowned and began speaking to him rapidly in Russian, seemingly admonishing him.

After a few minutes of unsuccessful exchange, a passerby who happened to speak English translated for Father Vincent. The driver wanted money because the mountain road was out of his way and was going to take him several hours to completely plow. It was illegal in Russia to use US currency so Father Vincent offered the man 5000 rubles, which was equivalent to around $500. The crotchety guy smiled for the first time, revved up the big truck and began to plow.

Normally, a few trucks would move the snow in tandem so they wouldn't run out of room to move the piles. This driver knew what he was doing and he was making good progress despite working alone. Also, most of the roads had been salted in the past so the snow was thinner on the tarmac. It was going to be a slow process but eventually, Father Vincent would reach the group and help them as much as he could.


 

* * *


 

Logan expected the worst. His vision was limited in the fog to only about ten feet in any direction. Thank God for the bright full moon because a flashlight beam, since he always carried a small flashlight with him, would be worthless in the fog, blinding him more than helping.

He and Tonja trudged on, heading for the bridge.

Logan wasn't afraid of anything. His nerves were made of steel, strong and unyielding. Because of the fog, the darkness and the ferocity of the Werewolf, he found himself lacking confidence. The Werewolf was big, fast and strong. Logan was only armed with a 9mm semiautomatic. Even if he managed to get a shot off, it would most likely be his last. He had to make the first shot count, hit the beast in a vital spot to cripple or incapacitate it, then finish it off. If he only managed to score a glancing wound upon the creature, the Werewolf would rip him to pieces before he could get off a second shot.

As if the fog was in cahoots with the beast, it seemed to swirl and concentrate everywhere Logan looked, seemingly bent on keeping him as blinded as possible.

Logan stared so intently at the fog that he actually began to hallucinate, seeing creatures that had frightened him in the past, different shapes and sizes suddenly appearing briefly out of the fog, their monstrous silhouettes clearly outlined against the white mist, only to immediately fade away seconds later. Some of his illusionary visitations were hunched, another of them towering, others were smaller, while some darted, others lumbered and some only peered. Each time Logan instinctively trained his weapon on the phantasms, his heart racing, his breath caught up in his throat momentarily, until the illusions faded away.

Logan's teeth chattered and he realized the cold was getting to him. His pants were soaked and so was his shirt and jacket up to his waist. His was trying hard not to tremble from the intense cold because it would foil his shooting. His body would not cooperate with him so Logan trembled like the surface of a pond during an earthquake.

Logan's thoughts once again drifted to Tonja. If he was suffering this badly, then she must be at death's door with the reaper himself holding the passage open for her to pass over the threshold. Logan wanted to stop and check on her, but he knew the Werewolf was close. He couldn't risk taking his eyes away from his surroundings, even for a second.

Logan realized that in the thick fog, the Werewolf could easily circle around behind them and attack from the rear. If so, there was nothing he could do about it, so Logan pressed on, trying to reach the covered bridge and a brief moment of reprieve from the thick snow.

He could hear Tonja's footfalls behind him, keeping up and was again amazed at the young girl's resilience. She was a Goddamn trooper.

When they finally reached the mouth of the bridge, Logan could see far enough to the other side. It was devoid of any Werewolves so he turned and lifted Tonja out of the deep snow onto the bridge where, after only a few feet, the wooden planks were dry and free of the drift. Logan joined her and he could feel the difference in temperature once he was out of the thick snow. Although not by much, it was definitely warmer within the covered bridge.

Logan pulled Tonja close to him and she clung tightly, using their bodies to warm themselves. They stood trembling together, slowly warming up, ever so slightly.

“How are you holding up?” Logan whispered to her.

“I can not feel my legs,” Tonja murmured. Her face was against his chest.

Logan wished he could light a fire or use magic to warm her. Unfortunately, there was no dry fuel around to light a fire, even if he had the means and he lacked Sephon's skill with magic.

“We can only stay here for a little while longer, then we have to press on,” Logan's whisper was partially muffled by her hair.

Tonja pressed herself even harder against him, “No. Let us stay here and warm up some more.”

Logan glanced at his watch. It was nearly 4am. There was still several hours of darkness ahead of them and miles to cover. Could they really survive the rest of the night by holing up here?

Something entered the other end of the bridge thirty feet from them. Logan didn't panic because right away he could see it was too small to be the Werewolf. Still, who the hell would be out here in the middle of nowhere in these conditions? Maybe it was a local. Perhaps there was a house nearby, warm inside, a roaring fireplace, with something hot to drink and thick dry blankets to warm themselves with. Logan could smell piping hot coffee, the strong aroma filled his nostrils.

“Serje?” Tonja said suddenly, snapping Logan back into reality.

I was daydreaming? Jesus Mary!

The kid that stood at the end of the covered bridge, back lit by the moonlight, was skinny, shorter than most young men his age and harmless looking. Against his better judgment, Logan lowered his weapon. He sensed no danger or threat coming from Serje.

“Thank God you are still alive, Tonja,” Serje said weakly in English. His Russian accent was even thicker than Tonja's.

“What the hell is this?” Logan demanded.

Serje didn't look anything like Logan had imagined. The kid was mousy, almost nerdy looking, the kind of kid who blended into the background, not arousing any suspicion or attention. He looked like a bookworm or a gamer, someone who spent most of their time alone. He looked intelligent and well-read, but not so smart to be considered annoying. He was everything that Tonja and his Grandfather had described, seemingly not capable of multiple violent murders.

Serje leaned against the side of the bridge as if his weight were too much for his legs to bear, “I am turning myself in, Mr. Hunter.”

Logan stared at him, comprehension creeping into his mind. Tonja seemed to not understand.

“You should run away, Serje!” Tonja told him, “You are not innocent but you do not deserve to be locked away in prison for the rest of your life!”

Serje smiled at her, “I will not be going to jail, Weirdo.”

Logan nodded at him, “This is a very brave thing you're doing, kid, considering you sold your soul.” He released Tonja and approached Serje, “Are you sure this is what you want?”

“What are you doing?” Tonja asked Logan. Her voice was fearful.

Serje ignored Tonja and said to Logan, “Yes. I must pay for my crimes. I do not deserve freedom.”

Logan shrugged, “Suit yourself.” He raised his weapon and leveled it at Serje's heart.

“Logan! Stop!” Tonja protested.

“This is for the best,” Serje told her, “No one is safe from me, Weirdo. No one will ever be safe around me again. I was even going to kill you.”

“But you did not, Serje!” Tonja cried, “You could have killed me plenty of times! You spared me!”

Logan kept the weapon trained on Serje. He thought about ending it right then and there. For some reason, he decided to let the two friends say their goodbyes.

“I am losing control of myself, Tonja,” Serje said, “It took everything in me just to take off the wolf skin belt. I am becoming the beast and losing my humanity. I cannot go on living like this, Weirdo. I cannot be a monster for the rest of my life but I do not want to be imprisoned either!”

Tonja was sobbing.

A deep guttural growl suddenly escaped Serje. A fierce look overtook him, rinsing away the mousy, nerdy appearance. His eyes were cold, his teeth were bare.

Logan took a step back.

Tonja stopped crying.

“The beast wants to come out,” Serje said in a low gravelly voice, “It cannot without the belt.” He leveled his gaze at Logan, determination in his eyes, “Do it.”

Logan prepared to fire.

Tonja hid her face.

Serje scowled at Logan, “Do it!”

Logan pulled the trigger.

Click.

Jesus Mary!

Logan tried to clear the weapon, but the action was completely jammed.

“Goddamn you!” Serje roared, “Do it!”

Logan fought with the handgun. He could see the mangled round stuck in the chamber. He jerked and pulled on the slide with all his might. It wasn't budging.

A deep guttural voice said quietly, “You are too late.”

Tonja screamed.

Serje lunged forward at incredible speed, shoving Logan with inhuman strength.

Logan felt himself flying, his feet came off the floor as if he weighed no less than a feather until he landed in the snow, twenty feet from where he stood. The wind was knocked out of him from the impact of Serje's hands. Logan managed to cough, “Run Tonja! Run!”

Serje was still human, small and skinny, but Logan knew he was still much stronger and faster than he was. Tonja managed to get out of the covered bridge, heading back toward Sephon before Serje grabbed her with both of his hands on her throat. He lifted her off the ground, her feet dangling below as he choked her.

Logan stomped on Serje's lower leg, dropping him to the ground, then drove a knee right into Serje's face. The boy pitched back away from him, releasing Tonja. He was back on his feet in an instant, charging at Logan, letting loose an inhuman snarl. The kick should have broke Serje's leg and the knee should have crushed his face, knocking him out. Apparently, Serje was also resistant to physical damage as well.

“Run Tonja! Get across the bridge and get back to town! I can hold him here!” Logan shouted.

Tonja struggled through the snow. Eventually making it back to the bridge opening.

Logan was not in position to guard Tonja's escape. All Serje had to do was turn around and he could have pounced on her again. Luckily, all of Serje's attention was completely on Logan. Serje sprang forward, both hands outstretched. Logan used his own momentum against him, tossing Serje to the ground. The kid was again on his feet, in a flash, and charged him again. Logan pistol whipped Serje twice over the head, kicked him in the ribs and slammed him down on the ground with deft expertise to no avail. Serje wasn't staying down.

The enraged kid managed to get a hold on Logan leg and he bit into Logan's calf. Logan cried out in pain and shock. He slammed the handgun down on Serje's head, hammering him with it. The boy's skull should have been split open from the blows, but there was no visible damage being inflicted. Serje got to his feet, picked Logan up off the ground and slammed him down. If not for the thick snow, Logan's back probably would have been broken.

Logan could hear Jewel calling him over the headset but couldn't make out what she was saying nor could he key the mic to respond. Serje was trying to bit him again and Logan struggled to escape the kid's iron grip. Serje was on top, snapping at him with his teeth, clawing at him and Logan couldn't buck him off. He was in a bad spot.


 

* * *


 

Jewel and Captain Dragomirov had reached the main road and waved down the snow plow. They climbed into the SUV that was following the plow closely, surprised to find Father Vincent behind the wheel.

“I was tired of sitting around doing nothing,” Father Vincent explained.

Road signs said that the abandoned mine was only four kilometers away, a little over two miles. Jewel called Logan to let him know they were on their way. She got no answer.

The snow plow driver was aggressive, driving at a high rate of speed, sending the fluffy drifts of snow flying. He was a one man plowing machine. At the rate they were going, they would reach Logan and the girl within fifteen minutes.

Worried, Jewel called Sephon over the radio but Sephon didn't answer either. What the hell was going on?


 

* * *


 

Tonja's throat still burned from where Serje had strangled her. She couldn't believe his madness, was stunned at how he could go from being her friend once again, to trying to choke her to death in the next instant. She had already convinced herself that the Serje she had known and loved was gone, had already moved her affections to another. Still, Tonja couldn't help clinging to the hope of getting her best friend back. Now that Serje had turned on her yet again, Tonja was done trusting him.

The cold wet snow was burning her legs and feet as Tonja ran. Her instincts were to stay behind with Logan and try to help except that Logan had told her to run. Tonja had promised to obey whatever he said, no questions, so she ran as fast as she could, putting a distance between herself and Serje.

Logan cried out in pain and Tonja stopped running, looking back. Maybe she should return and try to help after all. She couldn't bear the thought of Logan dying while protecting her. No, she told herself. Logan had told her to run so she continued on, reaching the top of a summit a few minutes later.

Tonja looked down below her, surprised to see bright headlights four kilometers or so below her. It was a heavy snow plow and an SUV coming up the road directly toward her. She felt tears burning and hurried down the hill toward her rescuers.


 

* * *


 

Logan tore Serje's hand off his throat. The little bastard was trying to bite and strangle him. Logan repeatedly struck the kid with punches, kicks and hammered him with the useless handgun with little success. No matter how much damage he was inflicting, Serje wasn't letting up. He was insane with fury, his eyes were wild, like an animal's. Serje's strength and rage were monstrous. Inhuman growls and snarls accompanying the vicious attacks worried Logan. He wasn't sure he was going to win the fight.

“Serje! For fuck's sake! Get a hold of yourself!” Logan grunted at him.

Serje's eyes were bestial, there was no sign of understanding, no evidence that he could even comprehend what was being said to him. He had gone feral, mad with rage, a complete monster. Serje wanted to kill Logan then hunt down and also kill Tonja. Nothing was going to stop him. He would not relent.

Logan felt his life was in jeopardy.

The inhuman growls and snarls escaping the boy were frightening. They sounded like they were coming from a much larger creature. Serje bit into Logan's forearm. He managed to twist his arm out of reach at the last second. The boy only got a mouthful of fabric, which he tore off and spat out. Serje was also clawing at Logan violently. Luckily, his fingernails were too short to do any real damage.

Logan tried to throw Serje off of him for a fourth time and managed to get the boy off balanced. Logan pushed against him with all his might, then hammered Serje repeatedly over the head with the handgun. They were both on their feet again, straining against each other. Serje had a tight hold on him around the waist. The boy stooped low, trying to bite into Logan's legs. Logan kneed him in the face, struggled to keep his legs free of his teeth and kept striking the boy as hard as he could with the gun. They were circling each other, locked in a bizarre dance.

Serje finally let Logan go only to backhand him. Logan was caught off guard, expecting the boy to continue trying to bite and claw him. He wasn't ready for such an attack so the strike landed solidly on the side of his head. Logan saw a bright flash and was lifted off his feet from the immense power of the blow. Thrown ten feet backwards, the snow provided some cushion for his landing. Logan was stunned, tried to get to his feet.

Serje was on top of him again within seconds, biting and clawing at him. Logan fought with everything he had to keep from getting injured. They struggled in the thick snow, Logan just trying to survive and Serje to destroy. Close up, Logan could now see that the boy's face had changed. His brow was heavier, his eyes larger, his teeth sharper. There was fur growing on his face and hands.

Serje was slowly changing back into a Werewolf.

Jesus Mary.

If Serje finished going through the full change, Logan would be ripped to pieces. He had to do something, had to get away somehow. Held down by the frenzied bloodthirsty kid, Logan was trapped.

A gunshot suddenly cracked and Serje cried out sharply in pain, falling away from Logan, tumbling out of sight down into the ravine next to the covered bridge. Logan looked around for his savior and saw Sephon standing thirty feet away.

“You okay, Shithead?”

Logan chuckled, his heart was still racing, “Yeah. I don't think I've ever been so happy to see you.”

“Why were you bothering to wrestle with him?” Sephon asked, hurrying toward the ravine, “Why didn't you just put a bullet in his skull?”

“My fucking gun jammed! You think I wanted to go toe to toe with a madman?”

Sephon nodded. He produced another firearm, a large handgun, “Here, take this one.” He tossed it to Logan.

Logan was impressed, “How many guns are you carrying around?” Then he looked at the gun, flashing Sephon a suspicious glare, “This wasn't down the front of your pants was it?”

Sephon laughed and shook his head. He ran to the edge of the ravine, looking for Serje to finish him off. The boy had fled, leaving a heavy bloody trail behind, “He's gone but wounded badly. I got him in the ribs.”

“Too bad you didn't just put a bullet in his skull,” Logan said.

Sephon ignored the gaff. He explained, “Jewel, the Captain and Father Vincent are heading right toward us in an SUV. We have to meet them on the main road. Hopefully, Tonja reaches them before Serje catches up to her.”

Both men hurried across the bridge and down the road in pursuit after the girl whose life was still in danger.


 

* * *


 

When he had first accepted the Dark Mark, Serje had felt invincible. His strength was monstrous, his senses acute. He had believed that he had nothing to fear, except not fulfilling his part of the Dark Bargain. Now that he was mortally wounded, Serje was loathe to feel death looming. It was like a shadow on his heels, following him over the clumps of snow, passed the brush and through the trees, no matter how fast he fled. Death was constantly there, tailing him like a hungry wolf, waiting for the inevitable.

Serje felt himself slipping beneath the waves of control, his rage had carried him beyond his awareness. The beast had won and claimed his shell as it's prize. Without the wolf skin belt, Serje felt the transformation happen. He was now the Werewolf forever more, belt or no. His worst fears had come to pass.

The Beast knew it was dying, the holy round had pierced its chest, causing massive blood loss. Unable to heal the wound fast enough, the damage was permanent and Werewolf felt its strength waning. If Serje could have taken control of the reins once again, he would have steered the monster far out into the woods to die peacefully. Serje was no longer in charge, however. The Werewolf wanted blood before it died, wanted to exact its violence before the end. The scent of Tonja was on the air and the beast barreled after her as quickly as it could.

Even with death nipping at it's heels, the beast was engulfed by it's rage, swallowed whole by it's need to kill. If it was going to die, it would at least die with Tonja's sweet blood running down it's throat and her succulent flesh in it's teeth.


 

* * *


 

Tonja was growing weaker by the minute. Although she could see salvation just a few kilometers away, below her, in her weakened state, it might as well be oceans apart from her. The icy cold was gripping her in its fist and squeezing the life out of her. She could feel its chilling grasp on her body like a vise, draining her body heat, her strength and her will. Tonja kept going, struggling through the deep snow, unwilling to give up, wanting to survive. Even though her strength was leaving her, she pushed herself forward, refusing to succumb.

Tonja heard a menacing growl then a snarl coming from some distance behind her. Her heart sunk. Serje must have killed Logan and was now after her.

The thought of never seeing Logan again tore into her heart like a dagger. Her emotions were split, her heart divided into dual emotions. She wept bitter tears, hating Serje for harming Logan. At the same time, she missed her best friend, weeping tears of sorrow for him too. Tonja had wished to see Serje somehow survive the entire ordeal and escape. Part of her also wanted him to pay for all of the death and misery he had caused.

The growling was getting closer. The beast was easily gaining on her. Tonja knew it was only a matter of time before she was overtaken, pounced on from behind and killed. Everything within was beseeching her to stop and to just give up, but Tonja ignored it. She pressed on, determined to reach safety before her demise.

Somehow, Tonja managed to coax more effort from her failing legs and arms. She hurried on, driving herself onward, forcing her body into complete overdrive. She would not relent, would no stop and allow herself to be killed.

Death almost seemed merciful after the punishment her body was going through but Tonja didn't care. She was willing to sacrifice everything to live. There was a new reason for her to live, a fresh motivation to survive. Tonja felt that if she was killed, then Logan's death would be a complete waste. Tonja refused to allow such an injustice to occur. Logan had stayed behind to protect her, had given his life for a chance at her survival and she would not waste the opportunity he had granted her. She refused to.


Submitted: April 24, 2018

© Copyright 2021 Cthulu45. All rights reserved.

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