Some context and backstory

This scene originally took place in the middle of Havoc’s Moon, as a break between a minor action scene leading up to the big boss fight.

My goal was to build more drama and increase the tension between the characters but the more I revised it and the surrounding scenes, I felt it more dragged the plot down than helped anything. I hated making the decision to cut this scene because this fictional band has been with me forever and I really wanted to plug them in somewhere. This scene might turn into a stand alone Slaughter Chronicles short story later or I might move it over to my Heart of the Forest Cycle universe. It’s about Regina meeting one of her idols, a fictional lead singer of a fictional band I wrote into my very first NaNoWriMo manuscript all the way back in 2005.

As always, this is a deleted scene so it did not make it to the final editing stages. There will be grammar mistakes and the writing is not as polished. Please keep that in mind as you read and don’t judge me too harshly 😉

There are some “spoilers” but nothing that gives away key plot points.


(Context from a previous chapter)

On the wall by the door was one lone Burning Bitch poster.

Burning Bitch was a local punk rock group and, while the band toured all over the East Coast, the lead singer, Lorelie The Siren Sierra, was coming here, to Silver Wolf Stills, for her Halloween solo-tour show. Lorelie’s solo stuff was more acoustic, more folk-rock, than Burning Bitch’s usual repertoire. But her punk roots pumped new life into sea shanties and pirate ballads that Regina could not help but love.

It had taken Regina a solid year of begging Atlas to ask Tony, the Beta and distillery manager, to reach out to Burning Bitch and book a show. She would have asked Tony herself, but she knew he would automatically refuse any request that came from her because that’s how he was.

A dick. About everything.

Atlas said Regina was too judgmental, that Tony might surprise her and say yes. But Regina knew better. The feud between Regina and Tony was older than the malice she felt for all of Atlas’s girlfriends.

Before Regina went back to Dark Home this last time, Atlas finally had enough of her whining and gave up on trying to teach her about diplomacy and positive communication. He asked on her behalf. Sadly, Burning Bitch was booked solid until next summer, but The Siren herself agreed to play the Halloween Special of her solo tour here, at Silver Wolf Stills.

(Fast forward to the night of the show)

The singer on stage wore a red dress and a half-mask of black feathers, just like the girl she sang about. She was in the middle of Regina’s second favorite song. It was about a ghost ship and the ghost captain’s ghost daughter venturing onto land once a year to meet up with her still living lover at a masquerade ball. Regina was almost sure ghosts weren’t real—she had seen none yet—but the melody was soothing, as only an acoustic banjo could make it, and Lorelie Sierra’s voice was melodic and mournful.

The stage wasn’t really a stage, just a stack of wooden pallets bolted together for stability, but Lorelie The Siren Sierra of Burning Bitch rocked the precarious structure as if it were the grand stage of Carnegie Hall. A tight cluster of humans and werewolves—all in costume—crowded the back half of the bar. A few outliers, mostly pack members, sat at the bar content to just drink and listen.

Regina hovered by the front door, hesitant to go in. She was muddy, bloody, and pretty sure she’d make everyone high from the gasoline fumes wafting off of her person. Her (right) eye swelled shut, but pink fluid still leaked out of the corners. That whole side of her face was a bruised dark red and there were red pin-pricks where each of the Vermin’s twelve little legs dug into her cheek.

She had never been more thankful that tonight was Halloween. Her bloody clothes and well-chewed face could easily blend in with the Instagram-ready ghouls and devils and kitty cat faces of the bar’s patrons.

I am a Deadite, Regina thought. I am a zombie. I am—

“What the Hell are you doing here?” A sharp voice tore Regina out of the song like a fish snagged by a hook.

Fuck.

Tony’s nose wrinkled, “You smell horrible. What did you get into? Is that gasoline? Regina, I swear if you ruined another vehicle I’ll put you on administrative leave for a whole year.” There was more hazel than blue in his eyes.

“Calm down,” Regina snarled, more angrily than she intended. “There was a Vermin infestation. I had to set it on fire.”

“Did any get away?” Tony asked, suddenly all business.

“No, I made sure.” Regina held up her arm for emphasis. Tony frowned at the red bite marks and inflamed flesh.

“You can’t come in here like that,” he said.

“Oh, thank you, Regina. I appreciate you taking care of a threat to all my human patrons, Regina,” she mimicked. “Why, no problem at all, Tony old pal.”

“What happened to the wards in that area?” Tony asked.

“I don’t know,” Regina said snarkily. “What happened to the vampires promising everything was clean?”

“Don’t mention our neighbors.” Tony glanced behind him, clearly more worried about any humans who might have overheard than her actual injuries.

“It’s Halloween, they’ll think were talking about ordinary people,” Regina said. “Now excuse me, I’ve been looking forward to this show for three months.”

“Oh no,” Tony barred the way. “You’re not going in there like that. You’re a mess.” 

“Come on! No one else can tell,” Regina said. “There’re no rules against me watching the show.”

“There are when you’re covered in mud and blood.” Tony said.

“It’s Halloween,” Regina repeated, exasperated that he was still talking while Lorelie was finishing up possibly her last song. “Let people think it’s a costume.”

When Regina watched previous concerts in other states on the Burning Bitch live feed, Lorelie always ended her solo sets with the ghost song. But the audience could sometimes persuade her to do an encore. And Regina would not miss it just because Tony didn’t like how she looked.

“You know the rules,” Tony said. “No one allowed up here unless they look presentable.”

“I didn’t have time to change,” Regina begged, more tired than angry. “Come on, you know how much I love her.”

“No.” Tony insisted.

“I’ll stay out here then, just shut up and let me listen to her. The show’s almost over, anyway.” Regina took two steps backward and leaned against the outside of the doorframe. From this angle she could only see half of Lorelie’s head and her hand on the banjo’s fret board. It would do.

The crowd at the stage cheered. Regina lost sight of Lorelie as she took a bow.

“Alright guys! You’ve been great! Since it’s Halloween, I’ll play one more song.” Lorelie tuned her banjo to the sound of applause.

“Yes!” Regina gave a triumphant hop and stumbled sideways when her ankle rolled. “Fuck,” Regina muttered. She cast a quick glance at Tony, but he appeared to not have noticed. Still too busy scanning the crowd for traumatized humans.

“Please be the death song, please be the death song,” Regina chanted under her breath as she bounced unsteadily on the balls of her feet with nervous excitement despite the pain. If she could just keep moving, her system would work itself back to normal and she’d finally start healing properly.

Tony was silent for a moment, his lips pressed in a frustrated line. “People are going to see you there when they leave. Come here.”

“Where?” Regina took a panicked step back. If he pulled her into the light, he’d see her face, see the rest of the damage. Little granules of bloody mud scraped against the raw skin of her arms as she crossed them protectively over her tattered chest. “I’m not missing the encore!”

Tony let out a frustrated growl, “Just come here. You can wait over by my office. You’ll get a better view too.”

“Wow,” Regina didn’t bother hiding her shock. “That’s really nice of you.”

“I’m not doing it for you. Now come on, before she starts,” Tony moved away from the door. Regina pressed a hand over her swollen eye and followed.

Lorelie launched into the story of the song she was about to sing, giving the crowd teasing tidbits without telling them the song’s name. Regina loved that about Lorelie. Not only was she a wicked musician and a brilliant lyricist, she was a master storyteller. Even though Regina re-watched every recorded show on YouTube at least a hundred times and could recite every single one of Lorelie’s stories by heart, Regina never tired of them.

She ran her tongue over her teeth and fought the urge to spit bloody saliva on the floor. Excitement bubbled in her chest and took some sting of her punishment away. Yes, she missed the concert, but at least she got one song. One and a half songs, really. She could be happy with that.

Tony moved through the press of human patrons and members of the werewolf pack effortlessly. Regina had to work not to bump into people. The humans were oblivious to who she was, but the werewolves she passed gave her more room. Regina was an unfamiliar sight this far out of the woods, and their expressions ran the gamut from curious to cautious. To them, usually her presence meant trouble. 

But that night, Regina had taken care of all the trouble. She even repaired the ward Thane crushed at the beginning of her punishment. And she was just in time to hear her favorite Burning Bitch song.

“The Death Song!” Lorelei growled huskily into the microphone.

“Yes!” Regina pumped her fist in the air. The motion almost sent her stumbling into the path of two unsuspecting humans on their way back to the stage from the bar, full drinks in hand. Tony grabbed Regina’s arm and pulled her the rest of the way to his office. He let her go when they reached the door, his hand almost throwing her arm away instead of just letting go. Regina staggered and had to hop a step to catch her balance.

“Are you drunk or something? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

Lorelie started playing and Regina forgot all about Tony. She let her attention float away with the music. Her blurry vision darted from the light fixtures above Lorelie’s head to the silver statue of the wolf on the bar. As the song continued, Lorelie’s voice brought Regina out of her daze and she started scanning the crowd. Regina could identify the humans but didn’t know if they were bar locals or just here for the concert. The bar wasn’t her territory.

Then her slow healing gaze fell on Atlas. He tucked his bulky frame away at the corner of the bar. Regina raised her hand to wave at him but then saw Marianna glued to his side and she lowered her hand quickly, brushing her fingers through her dirty, tangled hair to hide the gesture. Tony noticed.

“You don’t like her?” Tony asked as if he read her thoughts.

Regina snorted. “Nope.”

“Tough shit. She’s not going anywhere.” 

Regina couldn’t tell if Tony was being sarcastic or harsh. “Says you,” she spat under her breath. “They never last longer than six months.”

“She’s different.” 

Was it Regina’s imagination, or was Tony’s voice a little kinder? A little sympathetic? Nah. “You’re so helpful. You gonna watch my back on missions now, too?”

“Just stay here and don’t come out until everyone leaves,” Tony stalked toward the bar. “I don’t know why I bother with you.”

“Neither do I, fuck face.” Yes, I am the pinnacle of Void hunter maturity.

The Death Song ended and Regina clapped and whooped with the crowd, leaning on Tony’s doorframe for support. The werewolf staff herded the humans out and Tony took the drawer out of the register. Regina slid along the wall, away from his office door so she wouldn’t have to talk to him again.

She was so focused on keeping her eyes on Tony, she didn’t notice the stage and cracked her left knee into one of the pallet’s corners.

“Ouch,” an amused contralto voice chuckled, and Regina came face to face with The Siren herself. “You okay?” Lorelie asked.

“Y-yeah,” Regina’s hand flew over her eye again, hiding the wound. “I’m good.” Her leg from her knee to her hip was numb and tingly. The knee itself screamed as if caught in the claws of the Volcano Scorpion again.

“Great costume,” Lorelie said, oblivious to Regina’s pain. “I love zombies.”

“Yeah, me too,” Regina cautiously dropped her hand from her face. “That’s why I dressed like one. Hissssssss,” she raised her arms, pantomiming the movements of a hungry, dead thing. Lorelie laughed as she bent down to lay her banjo in its case. 

Regina cast a nervous glance over her shoulder to see if anyone else saw her being silly. And, of course, there was Tony with his jaw clenched like he was trying to bite through steel, gripping the edges of the register drawer like he wanted to throw it at her.

“Do you need help with anything?” Regina asked, ignoring him. “I’m the owner’s sister.” It was one of her cover story lies that actually had some truth to it. Or would have if Tony wasn’t such a dick.

“Oh, that would be great,” Lorelie smiled, showing off her dimples. “It’s just me tonight, as you can see, and these amps are kind of a bitch to wrangle.”

“Bitch! Because of your band,” Regina giggled. “I gotcha. No problem!” She followed where Lorelie pointed and started picking up equipment. “Your set was really awesome, I’m sure. I only got here at the end, though. I had to work.”

“Aww,” Lorelie pouted. “Sorry you missed most of it. But thanks for coming at the end when you could have just gone home.”

“I will literally drive up a river and through a blizzard to get to the last five seconds of one of your shows,” Regina hoisted an amp.

“Okay, crazy zombie.” Lorelie laughed again.

“Sorry, that came out wrong,” Regina blushed and was thankful neither Lorelie or anyone else could see it under the congealing blood and dim lights. “I just really like your music. And Burning Bitch too. You’re my second favorite band.”

“Who’s your favorite?” Lorelie asked as they walked out the back entrance and crossed the employee parking lot.

“Bowie!” Regina beamed. “He’s my—uh—dog’s favorite, too. We can listen to Bowie for hours every day.” (Author note: the “dog” is Squee)

“That is so sweet,” Lorelie smiled back at her. “Can I see a picture?”

“Of what?”

“Your dog?”

“Oh! Right,” Regina palmed her back pocket. “Oh man, my phone’s in my car. Sorry.” In reality, it must have lost it when she was digging up Danny or setting the Vermin on fire. That last involved a lot of running around and whacking things with a flaming tree branch.

“Next time,” Lorelie shrugged. “Well, this is my rig. Thanks for your help.”

Lorelie’s van was a beat up blue monstrosity covered in stickers that ranged from political slogans to music brands and coffee companies. There was a glittery pink mermaid stuck to the driver’s side window and a silver trident above it. Regina gathered herself to spew fond farewells all over her musical idol.

“Regina,” Tony’s voice rose sharply behind her. Regina turned and wobbled again as her abused ankle twisted yet again.

“Hey, Tony!” With supreme effort, Regina plastered the fakest smile known to man across her face and willed her open eye to stop watering. No matter how she felt about him, she still followed pack rules. And pack rules said never fight with each other in front of the humans. “What’s up?”

“This gracious lady needs her cut for the night. And there’s one more speaker by the bar. Go get it, please,” Tony said.

“Sure thing.” Regina tried her best not to limp. Damn fucking ankle, she whined to herself. Damn fucking paralysis.

Inside, the bar was pretty much dead. Atlas and Marianna moved to the middle of the bar now that there were no more human patrons to worry about. They filled their glasses with one of Tony’s seasonal, flavored moonshines left over from Summer, Peach Lemonade. 

The solid silver wolf dominated the bar. If any of the humans ever asked, Tony would joke that it was hollow, and not even silver-plated, but none of the werewolves would ever touch it. Silver burned worse than fire. Almost worse than Volcano Scorpion blood.

Regina hauled the remaining speaker toward Lorelie’s van and passed Tony coming in as she was going out. She smiled at him, just in case Lorelie was watching, but didn’t speak. And the smile dropped as soon as he was behind her. All the way down the hallway and in the silent bar, Regina heard him sit down heavily next to Atlas, and the low hum of their conversation faded into the background as Regina stepped out the back entrance again.

“Thanks a lot,” Lorelie said as Regina loaded her speaker into the back of her van. “This is for you,” she tossed a small white bundle at Regina. “For helping me pack up.”

Regina caught the bundle and shook it out. It was a Burning Bitch t-shirt with Lorelie and the rest of the band posing in a punk version of the Artemisia Gentileschi painting Judith Slaying Holofernes. Lorelie was Judith, of course, wearing a red tartan corset, a spiked collar, and safety pins in her ears.

“Thanks!” Regina waved as her second favorite singer hopped into the driver’s seat and backed out of the Bar’s parking lot. “Next time bring the whole band. We’d love to have you back!” Regina kept on waving as she drove down the highway, into the crisp Halloween night.

Satisfied Lorelie was truly out of sight, Regina locked the back door with the chain and padlock the bar staff hid under a plastic bucket behind the air conditioner.

*

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash