“Percy, Mrs Featherstonehaugh, we must get to the ship,” she said. Then turning once more to look up, “Quesnel, Prim, it’s going to get messy soon. Prepare for defensive action.”

Prim said, “And monkeys with projectiles aren’t messy?” She had a right to be perturbed – one of the Vanara arrows appeared to have bisected her hat.

“Why?” Mrs Featherstonehaugh left off trying to convince the Alpha weremonkey and came over. “What’s going on?”

“The Rakshasas know we are here, which means they know that we’ve made contact with the Vanaras. If they’re smart, they’ll realise that British policy is to try to integrate newly found wereanimals. Your husband still thinks you’ve been kidnapped. I know what I’d do if I were a Rakshasa queen and I hated Vanaras.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh paled. “No!”

“The army has been told where we are.”

The frontline attack of any British night campaign is always werewolves. They form the perfect vanguard – supernaturally strong, amazingly quick, fierce, tireless, and immortal. Werewolf packs had won England her territories, and vampire hives had determined how to keep them. It gave Queen Victoria an empire upon which the sun never rose. As the famous saying went, “It is always night somewhere, so somewhere werewolves are fighting.” Tonight that somewhere was Tungareshwar Forest.

The Kingair Pack charged into the fire-lit grounds of the Vanaras’ sacred temple. There were not many but they made a good show – bristling and fierce, battle-hardened, and fighting fit. The Vanaras turned their weapons away from The Spotted Custard and onto this new threat, but they did not strike the first blow. Instead the weremonkeys stood, furry arms drawn back, spears and arrows at the ready, awaiting their Alpha’s command.

So too did the werewolves. Kingair was an old pack, once not very stable, but in Lady Kingair they had a strong Alpha. She could hold them in check by sheer force of personality, even with all their instincts urging them to attack.

With the attention of both parties diverted, Rue looked up and caught Prim’s eye. She gave a sharp nod. Prim gestured with her handkerchief.

Spoo dropped a rope ladder which unfolded swiftly, thunking softly to the top of one of the temple walls.


Rue signalled to Mrs Featherstonehaugh. “Best to get out at this point. Everyone’s finished conversing.”

“I can’t accept that. Can’t we convince them that this is a set-up? Somehow?”

“Look at them. This is no longer our battle.”

Mrs Featherstonehaugh did not budge.

Rue couldn’t give her any more time. My first priority must be to save Percy. He is my responsibility and if the fighting gets deadly or moves towards the fire, he’s trapped at the heart of it. Rue couldn’t decide how to break his chains. She wished for good old-fashioned vampire abilities. Or possibly some training in how to pick a lock.

She inched close enough to touch Percy.

The Vanaras and the werewolves remained at a stalemate. Clearly, the Kingair Pack was under orders to keep the enemy in place and not engage. The Vanaras were under no such orders, but their weapons were designed to fight vampires. Nothing was tipped in silver. They could hurt with wood, but cause no serious injury.

Rue examined Percy’s shackles as surreptitiously as possible. They looked to be silver-coated iron. She needed a tool.

Everyone had gone rumbly. The werewolves, hackles up, emitted low growls and the occasional snarl as one drew back his lips to expose sharp canine teeth. The Vanaras were equally vocal, their rumbles higher pitched and gibbering, their weapons as sharp as those teeth.

Rue could think of no other approach so she sidled away, slowly, softly. A few heads turned to track her but no one chased. She stopped under her ship.

“Toss us down an axe or something similar, would you, Spoo? There must be firemen tools on board.”

Spoo’s head appeared, proving that she had been eavesdropping on the proceedings. Then vanished at the order.

Prim and Quesnel turned to glare after the former sootie.

Mrs Featherstonehaugh watched with interest.

Quesnel said, “Rue, what are you about?” A marker of his annoyance that he used her actual name.

Spoo reappeared with the requested axe.

Rue stepped out of the way hastily. Spoo dropped the tool overboard. It clattered on the sandstone and Rue gathered it up.

At this, one of the Vanaras veered away from his standoff with the werewolves and leapt over, spear at the ready. Rue brandished the axe and whirled to face him.

Quesnel shouted from above and took aim with his dart emitter. Before either of them could do anything, one of the werewolves leapt in a spectacular display of muscle over the bonfire and interposed himself between Rue and the attacking Vanara.


This must be Lady Kingair, because none of the other wolves broke position. Also, this wolf had Rue’s eyes. The wolf’s fur was tinged grey like Lady Kingair’s hair.

The Alpha of the Kingair Pack growled low and herded the Vanara warrior away from Rue and back into his group.

The weremonkeys chittered at each other. Something was keeping them from casting the first blow. Though the one facing Lady Kingair looked like he desperately wanted to hurl his spear into her side, he kept looking to his Alpha for a signal. The Vanara leader did not give him one.

Neither Vanara nor werewolf wanted to be responsible for starting an incident. Rue wondered if this was based on a sense of kinship between the two shape-shifting immortals, or the result of old age. Rash battle, as a rule, was the provenance of the young and ignorant.

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