When a Lioness Pounces(2)

By: Eve Langlais

Because he was the only one with the correct spell. “And?”

“And you will make sure they locate them and get rid of them. We can’t have the humans finding them.”

Of course not, because then they would question, and questions meant discovery, and that meant tons of fun for those who liked to observe. It also meant sales on pitchforks and silver bullets.

Since he had more pressing concerns at the moment than hysterical humans, he behaved for now and did as asked. Gaston led the local lions to the sewers. It wasn’t hard to follow the trail his pets had left.

Subways were fascinating places with so many shadowed nooks and crannies. Some of the tunnels led to platforms and hidden utility rooms, but there were also tunnels leading to nowhere. Dead ends that were perfect for a nest.

A nest he found. “Illuminet.” The word of power whispered from him, and the marble-sized sphere in his hand lit and rose. The chamber lost its cloak of darkness. Round faces with large unblinking eyes peered as he hovered the ball of light overhead. The small bodies, dressed in their colorful scraps, huddled close together, looking so innocuous.

Standing beside Gaston, Arik wore a deep frown. “That can’t be what’s attacking folks. Look at them. They’re shaking.”

“With rage.”

“They’re barely a mouthful,” Luna, another of Arik’s lieutenants, observed.

“Appearances can be deceiving.”

“Deceiving is right,” Arik growled under his breath.

“They look like garden gnomes,” someone observed.

As one the cherubic faces blinked, the tension in the cavern reached peak tautness.

“Now you’ve done it,” Gaston muttered.

The rage of the cabalus—or what some more commonly called goblins—exploded. Tiny bodies expanded with berserker energy, stretching the rotund cabalus frames until they hulked at least six feet. Their flesh color turned a dark green and pimpled with warts and welts, each creature sporting a unique pattern. Some even had horns and tusks.

“Now that’s more like it,” a very feminine voice exclaimed with much excitement.

The one with the ugliest features—a sought-after distinction by the group—raised his arm and pointed at them as he gargled some noise. It led to much chest beating, and the wild eyes glowed with hunger. The cabalus had gone feral, reverting to their primitive ways instead of their more housebroken ones. A pity. They were great for patrolling the sewers by his home and place of business, until they’d just left one day. Like the mutiny of his whampyrs, their departure was out of character. The little creatures were ridiculously loyal if treated well. And he did treat his staff well.

Feral cabalus were pests that required extermination. He couldn’t remember the last time it had happened.

The lion king and his forces did not flee when the goblinesque creatures attacked. On the contrary, most of them smiled, and one even shouted, “Hot damn, the big ugly one is mine.”

He’d never seen such enthusiasm for battle. As for Reba, the woman who continued to ignore him, she was fascinating to watch. Frizzy hair, dark with hints of red, framed her face, her expression fierce. Her outfit proved perfect for fighting. How high her leg arched, the foot clad in stylish sneakers, her aim perfect and hitting Jodin—the cabalus who used to tend his roses—in the chin. He went down. He did not get back up.

His second-in-command, Jean Francois, stood by Gaston’s side, watching the carnage. His servant chose to wear his human guise rather than his whampyr shape—for the uninformed that meant appearing as gray-skinned bats or gargoyles, depending on their transformation. No two whampyrs were ever alike except in one respect. They were killers, and they thrived on blood. Unlike what some rumors stated, they were not vampires, although an element of their creation relied on that particular virus.

“I think we might have underestimated the strength of the animals,” Gaston remarked, as the lions didn’t even bother changing shapes to destroy the green nest.

“They only seem so strong because the inhabitants of this nest are addled. Look at how poorly they fight. I’m going to wager something infected them. The same thing that probably infected the others in the colony last month.” The colony being the whampyrs that worked under Gaston.

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