DELETED SCENE: Nathan's Training
The next day was Friday, but that didn’t mean Nathan was off the hook for training. Friday nights were dedicated to languages and other skills, and true to his promise, Grey tested him.
“Five principles of wardcrafting. Go.”
“I thought we were doing German verbs.”
“Misdirection, misleading the enemy into a false sense of security. Of course I asked you to revise verbs, but this is the important stuff. I need to know how well you’ve absorbed these things before you have to use them in the field.”
Nathan scowled. He was sat on the mats in the garage, but it was cold out there when he wasn’t sweating buckets.
“Fine. The wood must compliment the intended purpose. The runes should be as precise as possible. Don’t cast too broad a net, more specific wards work better. Um. Invoke the elements. The more energy you put into it, the stronger the ward.”
“The fifth is anchoring it,” Grey said.
Nathan rolled his eyes. “Wards should be anchored to a specific person or place.”
“Which is stronger?”
“Place. Wards in one place are stronger and can draw magic from the earth. Wards that travel have to draw ambient magic, and they’ll eventually run out.”
“Adequate answer,” Grey replied. “Five pull-ups. You forgot the fifth principle.”
“I was technically still right,” Nathan grumbled, but he did the pull-ups because he was cold.
Grey barely gave Nathan a chance to let go of the bar mounted on the wall before he threw out the next question. “Vampires. Key weaknesses.”
“Fire, wooden stakes, silver.”
“Not if they’ve drunk blood recently.”
Grey cleared his throat.
“Strong sunlight still affects them,” Nathan said, “but not that much more than it would an ordinary human. Grey, I learnt this when I was seven.”
“You can never be arrogant about your knowledge, Nathan. Arrogance gets you killed.”
“And another five pull-ups. You aren’t taking this seriously.”
“I am,” Nathan said. “It’s not my fault you’re testing me on things I already know.”
“I’ll keep testing you until this knowledge is second nature. It’s not just a matter of learning these things off by heart. You have to know them as well as you know yourself. They must be instinctive.” He pointed to the bar. Nathan hauled himself up and did five more pull-ups.
“How do you distinguish a vampire from a human?”
“Aura, theirs sucks in light.” Auras were a sort of discoloration above people’s skin. All supernaturals had them to varying degrees.
“Assume you can’t see auras. Not all hunters have the second sight.”
“I do.” Nathan’s family was blessed—or cursed, depending on how you looked at it—with a thing called second sight. It meant that he could see magic, overlaid on his normal vision. Most days, it was fine. Enter a room full of witches and it was like trying to walk through a kaleidoscope. It used to give him motion sickness when he was younger.
“Examiners are going to assume you don’t. Besides, what if there’s no light? What if you’re blinded? No, stay on the bar.”
Nathan glared at the wall as he began doing pull-ups again. After five reps, he rested and replied, “Fine. Vampires move faster than humans. Their canine teeth are sharper than average. When they stand still, they freeze like the dead.” It was hard to explain, but there was apparently a difference between humans standing still and vampires doing it. Nathan had never seen it in practice. “Their skin pales when they need to drink blood. Their eyes will go red if they try to compel you. Don’t make eye contact.” He did five more reps as he thought about it. “Old vampires will often slip into old-fashioned speaking patterns and behaviours.”
“You’re already dead, Nathan.”
“I’m not!” Nathan jumped down. “I got all of them.”
“No shadow,” Grey reminded him. “Colder body temperature. Repelled by wards.”
Nathan ground his teeth together. “If I’m being followed by a vampire on the streets, the only thing I’m going to care about it whether or not he has an aura.”
“Don’t assume the vampire will be male. Arrogance will—”
“Get me killed. I know!” Nathan scowled. “I just don’t see why the other stuff is important. By the time I realise he—or she—has cold skin, they’re already going to have their fangs on my neck.”
“You want me to believe you’re ready,” Grey said, “But you’re dismissing some of the most important tenets we live by.”
“Then prove it.” Grey pointed to the floor. “Plank. And witches. Weaknesses first.”
“Silver, silver repels all magic. Anti-witch wards.” Talking and planking at the same time was hard. Nathan continued in a strained voice, “Salt.”
“Anti-witch wards are notoriously difficult to create. What is the alternative?”
“Uhhh.” Nathan’s abs were straining. “Juniper or rowan wood and salt creates a barrier. Fire. Running water.” He collapsed onto the ground.
“Thirty seconds rest, then start again.”
Nathan considered the merits of protesting, but he was exhausted. “I’m going to be late for dinner.”
“You’re done when I say you’re done,” Grey replied. “Vampires and witches aren’t going to let you break for dinner.”
That was Grey’s answer to everything—that vampires and witches wouldn’t care about excuses. Grey was a hard man in every sense of the word. Hard eyes and mouth. Hard body. Hard mind. He had brown hair cut in a military style, and he lived in his hunter fatigues. Nathan didn’t think he’d ever seen the man relax.
“How do you recognise a witch?” Grey asked when Nathan resumed his plank.
“You can’t, they look human,” Nathan groaned.
“Their aura, they always have an aura. Their eyes can change colour. They can manipulate the elements. Sometimes a breeze swirls around them. You can see the results of their magic.” Nathan gasped in a breath. “Smell. They smell of smoke.”
Monica never smelt of smoke. She always smelt of deodorant and shampoo. Not that Nathan would reveal that to Grey. Nor would he tell Monica that he had checked. Sometimes, he thought that Grey taught him shit, and one day in the real world he’d discover it had all been rubbish and none of it was helpful.
“Witch’s mark,” Grey prompted.
“All witches have a mark, but it’s not always visible. They hide it under their clothes.”
“What is it?”
“A way they identify each other.”
That, Monica had explained to him. Grey put his foot on Nathan’s back, and Nathan’s arms gave out. He was shaking.
“I didn’t teach you that.”
“No,” Nathan lied between deep breaths. “Aunt Anna did.” Aunt Anna was a quarter witch. She couldn’t do any magic, and she hid it really well. Nathan had only found out by accident. Uncle Jeff knew, but he wasn’t sure his dad did.
Grey was silent for a long moment. “Weres,” he said finally. “And then we’re done.”