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dissonance.

R Under a Midsummer Moon

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It was a midsummer evening, so the fact that it was sweltering was no surprise. Sweat dripped down even Espen's delicate features, dripping almost pleasantly cold onto his collarbone. Regardless, he disgustedly wiped it away from his jaw. An elf, looking less than perfectly composed? His entire being rejected any flaw in perfection; it was instinct for his kind. Breathing in the thick, humid air, he turned away from his mirror and to the dark figure standing nearby.

 

"Vashonne."

 

His voice was direct when he addressed the demoness. She was easily more powerful than he, much like a large dog could easily maul its human, and so he kept a solid command at all times. If she were to get out of hand, it would not bode well for him. He liked to think they got along, however, despite their strange relationship.

 

He had summoned her almost immediately after Saoirse was killed. Her summoning was only half-intended, born more from his rage and suffering—and guilt, that he hadn't been there to protect his beloved sister when she had needed him the most. Though his anger was now hidden well within him, it was no less fiery than it had been that day.

 

"It's time you got ready for the party," Espen said to his demon. "This is the only chance we have."

 

Through connections, he had managed to score an invitation to a very secret masquerade ball. Held in a countryside mansion, only a certain class of the elite were allowed in. It just so happened that the host was none other than Ragnar Voll, leader of the Voll Pack.

 

It was the Voll Pack of lycanthropes that had killed his sister for sick sport, using her as bait for their newest turns to hone their skills on. Espen remembered the morning that she had been found. The authorities were powerless to stop the Voll Pack. Powerless, or completely under Voll's sway. Rich, with blue blood and connections to the highest powers in the country, Ragnar Voll got away with anything he wished.

 

Espen would make sure he didn't get away with it this time.

 

"Go on, darling. I can dress myself. We can't be late."

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Vashonne lay on Espen's bed watching him dress for the masquerade, she was relaxed and perhaps a bit excited for a masquerade ball, but when he'd first summoned her, her attitude towards him had been very, very different. His commanding words made her grin, she'd made it very clear to him if he ever thought he could put his guard down around her she'd ruin him, and while she perhaps was a little more hesitant to ruin him since they'd gotten to "know each other," that doesn't mean she still wouldn't though. 

 

Eventually she rolled off the bed and pulled up the gown he'd provided her with for this evening. It was entirely too long, how was she supposed to shred people's intestines in such a piece? But she knew complaining would get her no where so she threw off her clothes and began dressing. As a demon her sense of modesty was non existent so she didn't bother seeking privacy as she stripped naked. She shimmied into the slinky black piece, luckily it had a slit that went all the way up to the top of her thigh. She donned her elaborate mask, tying it back beneath her shining red hair and sauntered up to her master, staring at him through the reflection of the mirror.

 

When they were both ready and prepared to leave she locked her arm with his, "Lead the way, Espen." She purred, taking advantage of the fact she didn't have to use any sort of formal or obedient titles when they went into public. 

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Espen sighed gently, noting Vashonne's lack of modesty as she stripped down behind him. Demons were never ones to respect human etiquette, much less the far more straitlaced elven manners. He was used to it by now, however, and said nothing. He merely went to his closet and pulled the vinyl covering from his tuxedo. The fabric was jet black, made by only the finest clothier in the city and tailored to his sleek frame. As Vashonne undressed, he did the same within the closet, pulling on a red-violet satin shirt, then the pants and dinner jacket. Last came a patterned cravat, something he opted for over the bow tie, as masquerades called for just that much extra.

 

He walked out to greet Vashonne, who looked elegant but sexy in her gown. They made for a stunning pair, like the models on fashion billboards that loomed over the city. If only those around them were aware of what they truly were. The masquerade guests were in for quite a surprise later on in the night.

 

In front of the mirror again, Espen secured his feathered mask around his eyes. It was fitted with sharply cut obsidian and grape garnets, which reflected within his pale eyes, giving them a glittering violet cast. Mask on, he turned and took Vashonne's arm, and they were off to the final stage of their working relationship. This was what he had summoned the demoness to help him with. Finally the night had come to show him what she was made of.

 

 

 

The mansion sat within a forest clearing. Deer roamed freely by the roadside, their round eyes glinting in the car's headlights. Espen drove up the road, which increasingly turned into more of a gravel tire-path than a properly paved street. The distance from the city ensured complete privacy for the Voll Pack. Tonight that worked in Espen's favor. Back-up would take a long time to reach the werewolves, and by the time they reached the mansion, Espen and his lethal demon friend would be long gone.

 

At least, that was the plan. Espen tried not to think of the less savory alternatives. This could go wrong in many ways.

 

No matter. The sedan pulled into the circular park in front of the mansion, where a crowd of partygoers loitered about. Espen looked over at Vashonne in the passenger seat, only a touch of red illuminated in her hair. They sat in the dark, saying nothing, waiting to pull up to the next available valet. They didn't need to speak; they both knew what was to be done tonight. They had planned it a long time now. They had killed, even, in the pursuit of answers. But this was the kill.

 

Espen stepped out of the Infiniti, handing the key to the valet. He rounded the sedan and opened the door for his demonic date, holding his hand out for Vashonne. He closed his long fingers around her smaller hand and turned to the front door of the three-story estate house. Party lanterns lit the front walk, their fires shining with a hellish flicker within Espen's eyes.

 

"This is it," he said, more to himself than to Vashonne.

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The entire reason she had been summoned was upon them this night. Espen opened her door and helped her out as she had been taught to do for such occasions. Keeping the shroud of 'human' had not been easy for her to adjust to but by now she had at least grown to tolerate it. Her dark eyes briefly glanced at him through her mask at his comment.

 

Time to get to work then. Vashonne took a deep breath and pressed out her senses, stretching deep into the forest to feel the many figures loitering about. She didn't pick up any in the forest, but that was to be expected, it was after all their party. There were too many people in general to easily pick out the Voll pack, this would take time and a bit more finesse. 

 

Ah well, might as well enjoy the short bit of time she had left in this plane before he sent her back to oblivion. She pressed herself against his arm and purred seductively as her breasts rubbed against his upper arm. She knew she made him uncomfortable with her perversion but it amused her to do so. 

 

Inside they were immediately suffocated by the air heavy with the scent of alcohol, or perhaps that was just her. Women eyed her jealously, men glared at Espen, all the attention, negative or positive made her grin, which came off sultry with half her face shielded beneath the mask. She reveled in their attention, swaying her hips as she walked to draw more attention, which she was sure was not what Espen wanted, but all the more reason to do it.

 

She leaned against him and whispered into his ear, "Won't you take me around the estate? I want to see more." Her voice coming out on a coo, taking the opportunity to press so close to him her lips brushed his ear. She needed time to find his target, and exploring the estate would give her a better insight, even more so if they got so lucky as to pass one of the Voll.

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It may have amused Vashonne to flutter all around her summoner like a drunken barfly, but Espen was always less than enthusiastic. She knew it, however, and he suspected that was exactly what spurred her to keep acting that way. Demons were all the same. She was not the first one Espen had ever run into in his lifespan—young for an elf, but well past a human's expectancy—and every time he found himself repulsed by their kind. They were self-centered creatures, only serving humans and elves if there was a trade benefit. Or if, in Espen's case, the demon had no choice but to comply; Espen had used quite a powerful binding spell that Vashonne was committed to follow. The drawback was that she wasn't a high-ranking demon, no one with great power.
 
Regardless, even a low-ranking demon was far stronger than an elf. He needed her whether he enjoyed her empty flirtation or not.

"Won't you take me around the estate?" she asked, breath stirring her master's pale hair. "I want to see more."

 

Espen nodded, weaving through the crowd of perfumed partygoers. Vashonne would pick up on things he could not, but Espen wasn't wholly useless. His keen eyes examined the masked dancers in the vaulted ballroom, pinpointing features he had studied in photographs and from afar. He had compiled detailed information on his sister's murderers, and he knew them now like he knew his own reflection. Their masks might as well have been made of fragile glass.

 

He saw them. Targeted them. Made mental notes on who they were with and where they were in relation to the rest of the crowd, even what they were drinking and how many they were knocking back. Even the lowest henchmen on the pack ladder were not exempt from Espen's rage. But it was Voll himself that Espen truly wanted, and he was nowhere in sight.

 

"Find Voll," Espen told Vashonne. If anyone would be able to find him relying on more than sight, it would be her.

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Vashonne hissed as his words echoed his command at her, she could feel his anger and it spread across his order, sending an uncomfortable chill through her that compelled her to obey, though that didn't mean she had to like it. The seductive flirting went to the wayside as his order pressed her to find Voll. Her senses reached out to their limits, licking at the spiritual world to find Espen's foe. As she looked around her dark eyes began to glow with an eerie purple of her demonic nature, if she could move around in her true form this would be much easier, maintaining the human guise required a constant channel of power and limited her on her other abilities. 

 

Though she'd asked Espen to take her around for the sake of their cover she ended up wandering ahead of them as she walked through the mansion. Most everyone was in the main hall enjoying the party so once they'd escaped down a side hall they no longer kept up their charade. Occasionally Vashonne stopped in front of a door and grinned, unsure if Espen could hear the lewd sounds of people fornicating, but it amused her and the essence of their lust was something Vashonne could feed off of and empower herself with, she could feed off of just about any sin, but lust was one of the easier ones, as was wrath. She would linger for a moment until she sensed Espen becoming impatient and then she'd move on before he could command her again. 

 

Her heart sped up as she picked up on Voll, she hurried down the next hall careful not to lose Espen, as she navigated a building she'd never been in simply by the smell and the echo of sounds vibrating off the walls. Vashonne lead them to the top level, and came to a stop before the door she felt him behind. She didn't speak, unsure of the hearing of werewolves and so she just nodded at the door, waiting for his next order on how to proceed with the event. 

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The demoness could hiss all she wanted at his orders—she would have no choice but to obey, in the end. Espen narrowed his eyes in response, releasing her arm so she could move forth. He stayed close behind, making minimal effort to look like he was mingling with the crowd. He watched Vashonne move past the useless partygoers. They were unimportant; if anything happened to them, it was unfortunate, but not Espen's problem. Collateral damage. One side of Espen's mouth lifted in a slow smile, excited at the prospect of vengeance at last.

 

They gradually wandered away from the main crowd, into the dim hallways. Away from the noise, it was easy enough to hear the sorts of things going on behind closed doors—or, in some cases, behind half-open doors. Surely that would give Vashonne a boost to her demonic energies. Espen passed silently, emotionlessly. Looking in one room there was a particularly loud set of friends, a man who stunk of wolf and his two lady companions in various states of undress. Strong male hands bruising delicate flesh, and sharp teeth pressing into full breasts. Even from the hallway, Espen knew the man was a werewolf, but it was likely the human women were unaware. Their senses were positively nonexistent in comparison to an elf's.

 

When Vashonne stopped, he knew she had picked up Voll's scent. Likely he wasn't alone. Espen moved in swiftly, turning his subtly pointed ear to the door. Gruff voices sounded off beyond the heavy wood, the words indistinct but loud. He fixed his eyes on Vashonne.

 

"They'll know we're here," he whispered. "We have no choice."

 

They had to move in. The werewolf's main sense was scent, and even if Espen and Vashonne ran back down the hall, the pack would pick up on their presence. Vashonne would understand her summoner's look: she was free to drop her human form now. They had no pretenses to keep anymore.

 

The heavy doors swung open.

 

Two very large men stood in the doorway, sniffing at the air. Espen could hear them suck in their scents, but he and Vashonne had ducked out of the main hallway and into a crossing corridor. Espen crouched on one side, pulling an elven short blade from his back, hidden beneath his jacket. Vashonne was in the opposite hallway. It was a matter of the two guards approaching them at the crossing of the corridors, walking into the scent-laden trap.

 

The guards' shadows appeared past the corner, lengthening on the marble floor. Before they could call back to the room, Espen leaped out from behind the corner, ramming his blade straight into the shorter man's throat. It stabbed through cleanly, sending a shower of blood onto the white wall. Espen drew the sword out quickly, allowing the gasping guard to fall uselessly to the floor. It was up to Vashonne to dispatch his friend, as Espen moved swiftly back towards Voll's chambers for more.

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Vashonne grinned wickedly at the leave she was given. Her dark eyes turned completely purple, radiating with her power. Dark caramel skin turned obsidian, changing in patches like a disease spreading quickly across her flesh. Sickening cracks and suction of flesh drew groans of pain and yet they did not seem unpleasant to her, crystalline horns and spikes jutted out of her flesh, her forehead, arms, and thighs as her feet broke and reconstructed themselves into hooves. A long crystal spiked tail grew from her back and whipped through the air with a nasty 'whoosh.' Vashonne groaned and purred as if in immense pleasure, flexing and clenching her now clawed hands, smiling seductively and baring a mouthful of razor sharp teeth.

 

She had barely adjusted to her freedom when Espen urged her into a corner. Normally, she would be a stealth driven being but not right after shifting having been charading around as a human for who knows how long. Her body was aching for battle, for adrenaline, and power. Espen attacked and she took a moment to drink deeply from his wrath, her moan drew the attention of the other, his eyes shot wide at the sight of the demoness, though she offered him only a wicked smile before attacking.

 

Vashonne's reverse jointed legs let her leap to impossible highs and fall from above onto her target, knocking him to the ground where she gave him not a chance. Her hooves crushed his ribs easily, hopping off of his fallen form and straddling him, his attempts at resistance futile as the initial strike left him heaving, his lungs flattened from the impact and desperately trying to reflate themselves beneath his crushed ribs. His arms were too weak to pull her off though the pushed and claws desperately at her sides, she purred as he drew red welts down her curves, before taking his wrist and snapping it easily. His howls of pain muffled beneath her kiss as she pressed her mouth against his. With one hand she held him at the throat, pinning his head back while she seemed to kiss down his throat but just as she reached his wind pipe she bit, her razor teeth tearing through the flesh as if it held no more resistance than butter. His throat was left wide open as she pulled away a hunk of his flesh in her mouth, however, she was not a flesh eater and so she spit it out next to his head while he gurgled on his own blood.

 

Hopping to her hooves she wiped her face and sauntered after Espen, her victim's fear had been invigorating and she was eager to take more.

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Despite the amount of men in the room, the silence was near-unbearable. Espen walked in first, followed by Vashonne, who was easily more covered in blood than her master was. To think, they'd just gotten started.

 

Ragnar Voll himself sat on a black sofa edged in gold, almost comically fancy considering what he and his men were beneath their human skin. Beyond red velvet drapes were floor-to-ceiling windows. Moonlight streamed in, lighting the harsh faces of Espen's enemies. All in all, ten—seven men and three women. Every single one of them bathed in the silver light that was their elixir of strength. Unlike lesser creatures of their kind, the Voll Pack was home to the most sophisticated bloodline of lycanthropy. They had skill and will enough to control their urges, to shift at will beneath the moon's embrace.

 

And that was what they did now.

 

Clothes tore and the wicked symphony of snarls and vicious barking filled the air. The partygoers in the rest of the mansion perhaps didn't hear the commotion now, not over the live musicians in the ballroom. Fur of various colors—gray, black, brown—fluttered free, skin ripping away in a bloody show like mere trash. Pained yips melted into intimidating growls, and where there stood ten people before there now stood ten very angry werewolves. Claws like eagle talons, canines sturdy and long like tigers' teeth, and bodies thick as bears. Espen tensed his hand around the hilt of his sword. He was anxious, but only to avenge Saoirse. He wasn't afraid for himself, not with Vashonne at his side. Perverse and mischievous as she was, she had nonetheless proven to be a worthy opponent and a tough companion.

 

Espen only smiled in the face of danger now. He was no longer afraid to die.

 

"I don't know who the hell you are," the biggest of the pack, Ragnar, growled Espen's way, "but you're not leaving this house alive."

 

"Fair enough," Espen replied. "Neither are you."

 

Glancing Vashonne's way, Espen smirked. He turned back to the group of waiting wolves and leaped forth, charging with his blade and his agile skill to guide him.

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