It happened by reflex. One moment, Matt was sound asleep in his stolen, still car. The next, he was wide awake and reaching for the first spell his panicked mind could find. As the driver side door splintered, impacted by a heavy van going faster than seventy miles an hour, only one magic surfaced.
He'd never successfully cast this spell, but he'd been dreaming of the One Pine coven and their resident scrapper, Snarlin' Carl. An animal spirit through and through, Carl'd been the one who liked him the least. Good instincts, that Carl. He kept saying someone like Matt would get them all killed, and he was right. Carl and the rest were in a shallow grave now, torched and buried by the same Order whose vehicle was now trying to do the same to him.
But Carl's dislike had been good for one thing. He'd fought Matt so many times while the coven was sheltering him that Matt'd picked up some of his spells. That was a gift of Matt's; if he saw a spell cast often enough, he could "wing it" pretty well. It wasn't as good as real training, but when the chips were down, it was better than nothing.
As his car started to barrel roll down the side of the embankment, Matt saw that the chips were most definitely down. Way the hell down. So, with nothing else to do and no other hope...
The magic took hold instantly. He murmured the same invocation Snarlin' Carl would hiss under his breath before punching him in the face. "Macht von Fenri!" It was just German for "power of Fenris" but as he'd come to understand, sometimes the words were useful for achieving the right focus. They weren't strictly necessary but at times like this, any crutch or time saver was a good one.
No sooner did he say them and reach for the power then everything exploded. His senses. His physical strength. His racing pulse.
And his car.
Up on the shoulder of the road, the van stopped. The driver stayed inside while the passengers jumped out to watch the doomed vehicle plummet in flames. One of them smiled grimly and gestured a kill sign to the man at the wheel. Lowering his assault rifle, he pointed down the hill and brought his hand to his neck.
He was still smiling when his head hit the ground. The foot wide shard of window glass kept going past his severed throat, through his spine, and out into the evening sky. Then Matt landed, snarling and crouched like the beast his soul had become. One hand still bleeding from where he'd smashed the window open to leap free, he balled it into a fist and shoved it through a second agent. Chest and heart detonated one after the other as the agent went down, coughing his last in a spray of red.
That left only two and the stunned driver. In Matt's eyes, they were sacks of meat too stupid to know they were already dead. He couldn't see colors any more; everything was a grey, scintillating blur with motion appearing in lines of gleaming light. When the nearest victim lowered his rifle to fire, Matt could see each bullet as it left the barrel. They were moving so slow...
And he wasn't. He ducked and rolled under the hail of crawling death. Matt had two pistols in his coat but he ignored them. Fenris, the primal spirit of fury, detested such things. Blood had to be tasted, battle had to be felt between one's claws and fangs. Anything else was the way of the magpie. The way of man. The way of the coward.
His fingers contorted, talons springing from their tips as he stood up beside the gunman and slashed with all his brutal might. Four roughly parallel fans of blood gouted from the agent, starting at his waist and ending at his forehead. The gurgle he made was satisfying to the beast within; his enemy fell in a rain of victory. Good.
One more outside and in Matt's enjoyment of the last kill, he'd lost track of just where the man was. He was quickly reminded as he felt a sting across his back. A narrow miss, close enough to hurt but not enough to kill. Matt accepted the pain; he deserved it for letting the human get the drop on him. Now the hunt would begin again.
Matt tensed and sprang, impossible strength taking him off the ground and out of the path of a dozen more bullets. He landed hard on the roof, spotted his prey, and jumped again as the driver inside put four holes through the metal where he'd been. Feral Matthew landed on the St. Michael operative like the Hand of Death itself. What happened next was wet, quick, and extremely messy.
Turning his head like a wolf regarding the last rabbit in a burrow, he stared up into the eyes of the van's driver and saw what he'd been hoping to see.
The engine of the van started up again, its front wheels spinning as the man inside desperately tried to gain traction and get back onto the road. Matt grinned, licking scarlet from his lips and swallowing the shreds of foe he'd taken from the throat of his kill. "No escape for you," he rumbled deep in his chest.
As the van tore past him, Matt saw something the driver had apparently forgotten. The gunmen had come out to make sure he was dead. They were very thorough, those Order agents. But they weren't that thorough.
They'd left the side panel door open.
One quick jump and Matt was inside the speeding van. With a roar, he crouched to spring forward, claws extended, fangs bared wide. The driver, with no other option, did the only thing he could. He slammed on the brakes and sent Matt slamming into the back of the passenger seat. Hard.
That stung. It also stunned Matt just long enough for the agent to pull his handgun and put it to Matt's dizzy face. "Die, abomination of Satan!" The man had an eastern European accent, something Matt could probably have placed down to the exact country of origin if he'd been coherent or given a damn. As a final insult, the Order knight stuck the barrel in Matt's gawking mouth and, with a sneer, pulled the trigger.
Click. Nothing happened.
Not entirely true. The sound of the gun misfiring snapped Matt out of his impact stupor. Not willing to give the St. Michael euro-trash another shot, he rolled sideways away from the gun, vaulted to his feet right up against the man, and head butted him. The irony of the driver reeling backwards with the imprint of his Order's own holy seal in reverse on his face was priceless.
A stiff arm to the man's elbow knocked his gun free and a slash across his chest cut the straps off his bullet proof vest. The armor fell open, exposing soft, yielding flesh. Matt pulled his hand back, straightened his fingers into a deadly five-pronged spear, and...
...waited. There was something he had to know. It was hard to talk while Rage burned through him, but he could force out the words.
The knight stared at him in horror, mute from pain and shock.
"Why... do you... call it... The Order of... Saint Michael.... Archangel?"
Almost twitching from the sheer incongruity of his would-be victim asking a question like that at a time like this, the man stammered as he answered. "B-b-because we revere him and... and his message of intolerance for the unclean."
Matt growled and kneed the man hard in the side, breaking at least one rib. Still poised to deliver a death blow with his hand, he shook his head. "No... moron. Why... both... Saint... and Archangel?"
The man's eyes, narrowed in pain, furrowed father in confusion. "What?"
Matt gritted his teeth. "The... Council... of Nicea... decreed that... the title of... sainthood was... the highest honor... bestowable upon a... holy man. Same conclave determined... the innate divinity... of angelic patrons." It was ridiculous, but this had really been bugging him.
The driver, his blue eyes wide in terror, stuttered again. "W-what?!?"
"Ergo, mother fucker... an angel cannot... be a saint. Only humans can be... sainted."
The knight shook his head, only barely understanding what was being said. "No no... Our patron is b-both angel and saint. He is our Master and the Right Hand of God. The most exalted one, the Sword of Fire to cleans..."
"Skip the speech." Matt growled again; this was pointless. Violence ensued.
An hour later, Matt was in a gas station restroom, brushing his teeth with every kind of toothpaste the little roadside mart had available. He'd already downed four energy drinks, a liter of water, four Big Mics, a large tub o' waffle fries, and enough Snackers candy bars to make a birthday party full of eight tear olds explode.
Everything hurt. Everything was weary. Every part of his body was paying the price for his bout of frenzy, and everything ached.
And nothing was getting rid of the taste.
"I can't believe I ate some guy's throat. Ewwww....."