I’d give just about anything to be tracking a terrifying beast right about now. Surely there’s got to be a buffalo that like… liquidates your bones and sucks them out of your nose like a straw or something that needs our help.

But no, we’re stuck in Reno with what is rapidly becoming what I cannot BELIEVE I have to call a growing political power.

It’s literally just been us sitting in cars and hotel rooms discussing concerns for the whole week, which means I have WAY too much time to think about where Cara is and what she’s doing.

The consensus as of Wednesday (which I didn’t expand on, sorry, I got too overwhelmed just reliving the fucking meeting) was that we shouldn’t call Lana in until we really had to.

“But isn’t her whole job to handle shit like this?” I asked, because I want to wash my hands of these guys and go hang out in the woods or something.

Julian pressed his fingers to his temple. “Yeah, it is,” he admitted. “But —”

“The problem is that when you think you’re chosen by some higher power, it tends to go to your head,” Neal interrupted. “She gets defensive when people question her decisions. Because what’s the opinions of living, breathing people when you have the word of some long-dead magician?”

But like… idk, Neal is always sort of determined to see the absolute worst in Lana. And I’m not a fan of hers either, but if she wants to be the unquestioned leader of the magical world, can’t she be the one to navigate rising political competition?

Instead of approaching Lana straight on, we’ve been in communication with the Walthers. The big vote is this afternoon and they should be here by then. I think the plan is pretty much to crash their party, and hope that the Walther’s presence is enough to shake up their certainty in Billy Ace.

We’ll see though.

Oh my god guys, I’m not a damn politician, but what I just witnessed was BAD it was BAD, I’m literally SHAKING right now.

We’re on the road right now because Silas Walther shoved us out the back door and essentially told us to run for it, like it was BAD

Okay, sorry, from the beginning.

The Walthers arrived just minutes before the big vote was supposed to take place, looking particularly burly and unkempt. Rage seared through me just at the sight of them.

“Easy,” Neal said to me, just beginning to smile. He must have noticed me bristling. But I hate them and I didn’t want to go easy I wanted to kick some ass.

Silas was actively bleeding, we could tell because there was a stain spreading on the elbow of his flannel.

“Sorry,” he said when Julian asked if he was alright, trying to get a better look at his own elbow. “There were these big ass boar-like things out of town. Never seen anything like them.”

“Did you grab their head,” Neal grumbled. “Coulda added to their collection.”

And when the Walthers didn’t know what he was talking about, we went ahead inside.

You should have seen these hunter men’s faces.

The bar had been buzzing with all this excited energy — the crowd was even bigger than it was on Monday, it was huge — and then they all noticed the Walthers among them and there was a slow, spreading quiet through the room. They were like kids getting caught stealing out of dad’s wallet.

“Hi boys,” Silas said in his growly voice. Yes there were some women in there, but apparently not enough to be worth acknowledging lmfao fuck Silas Walther. “How are we doing this afternoon?”

No one moved or answered. We went and sat at the nearest available table, not in the back this time, and though crowd did resume their murmuring, I could see faces turning briefly towards us in the crowd — not quite long enough to make eye contact, just enough to catch a glimpse.

“Interesting crowd,” Silas grumbled, nodding towards where the Allens were skulking in a corner.

“I don’t know a lot of these guys,” Danny Walther replied.

“Many of them are new to the business,” Julian explained. “You know the type. Inexperienced. Uninsured.”

Silas sniffed derisively. “Great.”

Billy came into the room literally moments later, and there was palpable relief in the crowd.

“Wow!” he called over the din. “So many of you! Are we ready to vote for our leadership?”

The room gave a dull roar of approval, and it was at that point that ALEC of all fucking people came forward.

“Anyone who’d like to nominate someone, speak up now! I for one nominate Mr William Ace!”

There was a cheer as Billy waved them off, smiling. But it wasn’t unanimous anymore, not with the Walthers in the room, and we could all see it. There was just enough uncertainty to cause some quiet patches in the room, some discomfort. I could see just a flash of frustration on Billy’s face. He wanted the crowd certain, he wanted them unanimous.

“I have a question,” Danny said over the roar and the room hushed. People twisted to look and I leaned to hide behind Julian lol. “I think what we’re all doing here is very important — in these changing times its more important now than ever that we have fair leadership that represents our will as a community.” He smiled warmly. My guess is that Danny Walther is pretty good at the infiltration game.

“My question though is this: why aren’t more of us here? Where are Knock Valley and Daryl Armstrong? The Kellihers? The Oshmars?” And then he said a whole bunch of other names I didn’t know, but as he spoke the room shifted uncomfortably. “These are people who have been hunting for decades, some of the best teams in the business. It seems like if you really wanted a fair vote for fair representation, you’d have invited more people.”

There was an awkward quiet, and I held my breath, watching. It’s funny the way your ally to enemy scale slides when you’re in a pinch, because literally yesterday I wouldn’t have reached out a hand if Danny Walther was drowning, and now today I’m sitting in there, biting back a grin because watching this terrible dude call out this new, maybe even more terrible dude felt GREAT.

Billy Ace took a second, and I really thought he was gonna stumble.

But then he said, “You’re Daniel Walther?” He was looking Danny level in the eye, totally unintimidated.

“I am,” Danny said.

“I’ve heard a lot about you and your brother,” Billy went on. “I understand you’re a good hunter, one of the greats.” He paused a moment, letting the compliment hang in the air awkwardly. “From what I understand, if a hunter needs to get anything done, you boys are the people to ask, is that right?”

Danny hesitated, and my stomach sank.

Billy didn’t wait for an answer, just let the question linger. “It’s funny though — until we all pulled together, I’d never met you. Most of the people in this room hadn’t met you. Not you, or any other of these hunters you mentioned.” Another long pause, but I could feel the tide of the room shifting back towards Billy. “I asked everyone here on Monday to call the people they knew. If that has excluded the most powerful members of our community, I think the statement makes itself.”

The Hawthornes exchanged a look. Silas shook his head just slightly, and the rest of them obediently didn’t say anything.

Billy shifted to address the whole room. “We’re all coming together because we all want to make a difference in this world, and because the current system wasn’t built to include us. I am so humbled that Alec has nominated me for leadership — but before we vote, I want you know what I stand for.”

Note that he didn’t ask if there were any other nominees — but no one seemed to care. They were unanimous again, hanging on to his every word — and anyways, I think everyone in that room knew that they weren’t really looking for other nominees. We all knew that this was just to make Billy Ace’s leadership official.

“This is what I want,” he said. “I want criminals to be held accountable for their crimes. I want all of us to have equal say in the rules we all abide by. I want transparency in our lawmaking. I want all of us to be free and independent of magic and those that use it. I want all hunters to be equipped for this dangerous job we all do. I never want to rift anyone again. And I want all the monsters that hide among us to never hurt another human soul as long as we live.”

The energy in the room was thrumming, everyone hanging on his words. When he was done, they all roared their approval. It was all chilling.

But the most chilling — people glanced our direction at the end there. Specifically at Julian. Not lots of them. Not many. But enough that I felt myself begin to go all cold and shaky.

“We need to go,” Neal said, softly under the noise. “This isn’t safe.”

“It won’t be subtle,” Julian said.

An expression of disgust crossed Neal’s face. “At this point does it matter?”

But Julian was right. It wasn’t subtle. The moment we got up, Billy Ace zoomed in on me, and then for some incomprehensible reason, he SPOKE to me. In front of all those people.

“You there,” he said. “Shiloh’s your name, right?”

The whole room turned to look at us, caught us as we were trying to escape.

My insides shriveled.

“Yeah,” I said.

“You don’t need a vote?”

I hesitated and he smiled, widely. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to put you on the spot. But I’ve heard a lot of rumors about you. I heard the case that got you into this life was an ugly one.”

I glanced up at Neal, heart absolutely drumming, and he put a protective hand on my shoulder.

“It’s okay,” Billy said. “You can answer. No need to be shy, we’re all new to this world, we’re all exploring it’s possibilities.”

But like fuck you dude I’m nothing like you.

“It wasn’t so bad,” I managed.

“That’s not what I heard,” he said. And then after a long pause the thing that really scared the shit out of me: “I heard that whatever was in that little town of yours, it brought you back from the dead.”

Cue the PANIC ATTACK. EVERYONE was staring at me.

Neal’s hand tightened on my shoulder and he started to steer me around.

“I don’t know where you’re getting your information,” Julian said. “But that’s just a rumor.”

“Maybe,” Billy Ace said, turning back towards his crowd. “But reincarnation seems like exactly the kind of information that we want to share.” He had them, he had them all in the palm of their hands

“Go,” Neal said, right in my ear. “Go on. Right now.”

But everyone was staring at me, and they were all beginning to murmur, and fucking Merl Allen was smiling this horrible smug smile. And that was when Silas got up and put himself between us and the crowd.

“Go on,” he said.

LMFAO yeah no, DUH. Behind me I heard Billy Ace say, “don’t you want to stay and vote?”

But we didn’t. We needed to get the fuck out of there. Now that we’re back in the car, driving as fast as we can out of Reno, I have a clearer vision of what it must have looked like to all of them, us running off like that, but I don’t care. I didn’t want to stay in that terrifying room a second longer.

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