“So let me get this bit straight,” Rafe said. He and Stephen were sitting in Casmin’s room, waiting for Edmund. “This Graves wants to be God?”
“No,” Stian said. “He wants to be a god. God is the creator of all things, the ultimate governor of the universe. A god is more like… a high ranking bureaucrat with extraordinary powers.”
Rafe raised an eyebrow. “Religious man, are you?”
“Try doing what I do for ten years and be otherwise,” said Stian. “The Church won’t have me for fairly obvious reasons but I refuse to let my relationship with God be defined by the problems I have with his staff.”
“Fair enough,” Rafe said.
“I don’t know or understand what gods are,” Stian said, “or where they come from. Or why, for that matter. Why might be the most interesting question of all. They seem to require belief. They’re changed by it, by our perception of them. So does that mean we create them? Demons don’t have gods. They have powerful demons they’re afraid of, certainly, but not gods. And the fae…”
“What Stian is saying,” said Casmin, interrupting him, “is that gods seem to come into being. New ones show up periodically, so the idea of becoming one of them isn’t as ridiculous as it initially seems.”
“Relatively speaking, yes,” said Stian.
“But how is blowing some horn supposed to make that happen?” Rafe asked.
“You’ve heard of the Wild Hunt?” Casmin asked.
“I haven’t,” Stephen said as Rafe nodded.
“It’s an old legend,” Rafe said to his brother, “but you’ll hear it all around. The great huntsman, whether it’s Odin, or Black Peter, or Herne, or whoever, leads out his knights and his hounds from just after Halloween to sometime in the spring. They go gallivanting about the countryside, killing or sweeping up everything and everybody they come across.”
“Right,” Stephen said, “So, not good.”
“Legend also has it,” Casmin continued, “that whoever can get his hands on the horn that calls the hunt can command it. So Graves seems to be operating under the assumption that if he calls together his own pack, then summons the hunt he can also take on attributes of Wotan.”
“That’s it?” Rafe asked.
“There’s a lot more to it than that, I’d imagine, but the theory itself is sound. It’s sympathetic magic: the more traits of one thing you can acquire, the more you can get. Like berserkers wearing wolf-pelts,” he said, smirking at Stian. “But what he’s trying to do… he’d need a pack of hundreds just to get started. Which he’s trying to do, so best we put him down tonight.”
“Is there any chance it could work?” Stephen asked nervously.
“No,” Stian scoffed. “There’s a lot of debate about what precisely a god is, but even those of us who believe ascension is possible claim it takes hundreds of years and thousands upon thousands of followers. But given that he’s working with others, and based on some of his other statements, we aren’t taking any chances.”
Edmund slipped in the door as Rafe asked, “You don’t want to try and capture him?”
“In order to do that,” Casmin said, “we’d have to take out his entire pack. There are at least fifteen of them, and while we might be able to pull it off, I don’t like those odds.”
“Agreed,” Stian continued. “No, I think Edmund had the best idea.”
“I did?”Edmund asked, his face startled.
“We take him out at four hundred yards,” said Stian.
Edmund raised an eyebrow. “Have you looked outside lately?”
“What my brother is trying to say,” Rafe translated, “is that while he’s an excellent shot, he can’t hit what he can’t see.
“That I can fix,” Stian said. “I’ll get as close as I can and light him up. I’ll approach from the north, and…”
“You’re not going alone,” Casmin said.
“Why not?” Stian asked, puzzled.
“Humor an old man,” said Casmin.
“I’ll come along,” Rafe said. “I know the terrain already. That will leave Casmin and Stephen with Edmund. So we take down Graves. Then what?”
“Worst case scenario, they head towards the direction of the shot,” said Stian. “So you three scatter the instant he goes down.”
“Agreed,” Edmund said. “Best case scenario?”
Stian shrugged. “Best case scenario, you’ve got five Alphas in one place with blood in the air and they thin their own ranks. Either way, if this works, we’ve disrupted Graves’ plans and removed a considerable asset from whomever is behind all of this. It’s not a perfect win, but it’s a win.”