A town somewhere outside of Grantville, 1635
Henrietta was nervous as she crept her way down the street. Tonight would be her first time attending a real meeting of the Society. The leader behind it all preferred to remain anonymous.
She could understand why. The sort of “truths” he was teaching were dangerous. She knew him only as “John” and that he had learned the things he knew from an up-timer he had served with in the army.
At last, she reached her destination. The alley behind the house was deserted. Its darkness brought her both comfort and fear. If her parents ever found out she was here, much less a member of the Society, she didn’t want to think about what might happen to her.
Hurrying to the house’s rear door, her knuckles rapped against it—a fast beat of three, followed by two loud thuds, and finally by a light tap. The door opened. Van stood in front of her.
“You made it I see.” He grinned. “I didn’t think you would.”
Her younger brother stepped aside to let her enter. Henrietta darted past him into the house.
Of course, Van wasn’t the name their parents had given him but no one here dared use their real names.
The small room was lit by flickering candles.
Ray and John sat at the table in the center of the room. In its center rested a skull with a candle burning atop it. They both rose to their feet as she approached.
“It’s good to see you again Red,” John nodded at her.
After making sure the door to the alley was locked, Van joined them at the table and all four took their seats.
“So Red,” John watched her carefully as he spoke, “How much has Van told you about what we do here?”
John was older than the other members of the Society and she had been told he was its founder.
“I know that we are the only ones who will be prepared should the creatures of the night rise up,” Henrietta said, trying to sound calm and confidant. “None of the adults who came back through the Ring of Fire want to admit the truths that we know.”
Ray cracked a smile, leaning forward. “And what truths would those be, Red?”
“That the monsters in those books are much more than just stories,” Henrietta gestured at the tomes filling part of the top shelf of an otherwise empty bookcase. “And that we, the Society, have pledged our lives to stop them.”
“That’s all well and good,” John agreed, “but are you sure you are ready?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” Henrietta challenged him.
“There are those of us who don’t believe a girl should be admitted to the Society,” John confessed.
Henrietta wondered if he meant himself when he said that but she doubted it. His association with the up-timer who had taught him all he knew made him more inclined to be at ease with treating women as equals or even leaders. Her brother Van had pressed her to join so she doubted very much John meant him. That left Ray. Of the four of them, only John was older. She placed him at around the age of twenty at best.
“All our names here are dangerous,” Van defended her choice.
Henrietta slipped a “silver” tipped arrow from underneath her cloak and placed it on the table.
“I choose the name Red because Van told me you have no one to deal with the wolves.”
“That is true,” John nodded. “I specialize in demons. Ray is best at dealing with spirits. And your brother, Van, he has a thing for the undead with pointy teeth.”
Van plopped a sharpened stake onto the table. “You bet I do.”
Her brother reeked of garlic and wore a wooden cross around his neck.
“This is pointless,” Ray grunted. “Let us test her and be done with this meeting.”
John and Van traded a look that made Henrietta even more nervous.
“Tell us then Red, how do you kill a wolf?” John demanded.
“With silver and fire,” Henrietta barked back at him.
“When does a wolf change?” Ray asked.
“Under a full moon or in times of great stress and anger.”
“Does a wolf need the moon to change?” Her brother asked.
“Some wolves can change at will,” she replied.
John stared at her for a moment then asked, “Are all wolves of the sort of which we speak men?”
“She knows her lore,” John chuckled, “I’ll give her that.”
“I say we take a vote on her acceptance at once,” Van put forward the motion. “All those in favor, say Aye.”
“Aye,” John and Van chorused together.
Ray appeared angry as John extended his hand to her and said, “Welcome to the Monster Society, Red.”
“Thank you,” Henrietta accepted John’s hand, pumping it up and down in her excitement.
John and Van then led a discussion of the tactics of dealing with a vampire uprising in Grantville, followed by a reading from the holy works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Henrietta and Van left together. As they walked down the dark alley towards the street, Van was beaming.
“I’m proud of you, sister,” he told her.
He fiddled with his stake as they walked, testing how sharp it was with the tip of his finger.
Henrietta shrugged. “I really think being a member is going to be fun.”
“Fun?” Van suddenly grew upset. “When the time comes, we’ll be the only ones ready to save the world!”
“You’re right, Van,” she said, trying to calm him, “We will be.”
She could see that to her brother everything the Monster Society taught and believed was as real to him as Grantville itself. She knew it wasn’t—but didn’t have the heart to tell him that in the real world, the true monsters wore clothes and looked as normal as anyone else. The Society was much more of a way to escape the real world. It was—What did the up-timers call it?—an RPG that used costumes and acting more than dice. Besides, if it gave her brother a feeling of importance, who was she to judge? She had certainly joined up fast enough herself, hadn’t she?
“At the next meeting, I think John is going to talk about that hairy monster with the big feet and the monster that lives in a place called Loch Ness,” Van said excitedly.
Henrietta put her arm around his shoulders as they walked home.
“Trust me brother,” she said, “I can’t wait to hear about them.”