The woman tiptoed into the bedroom, yawning and murmuring under her breath. She stepped around the large dog on her side of the bed and lowered herself to the edge. He could see the outline of her form against the moonlight streaming in through the open window across from the bed, pressed his head against her thigh in fleeting contact and was rewarded with an absent minded stroke that started at the edge of his brow and down the back of his neck.
The man muttered from his side of the bed.
"Just Oscar. Go back to sleep," she said.
The hand withdrew. She disappeared into the depths of the bed and grew still, her breathing growing more even, softer, matching the man's.
The Old One rose and went to the window. He studied the landscape, the undersides of the cars in the driveway, the big cedar in the center of the front yard. Flowerbeds, bird feeders, the tree line beyond. Silent. Motionless. Not so much as a breeze.
But they were out there, perched behind shadows. Not in them. Behind them, like shadows were walls.
A large Creeper, bold in its size, flitted between the cars, slipping up onto the hood of one, peering into the house, focusing on the rooms where it knew the people slept. Had this been the one the Hound had warned off?
He waited for its gaze to travel to the window where he stood.
The Old One bared his incisors, still white and gleaming despite his age, and allowed the smallest of rumbles to escape his chest.
Come forth. It's been years since I cleaned my teeth with the bones of your kind.
The thing glided away, trying to act unhurried, joining the others poised in their hiding places.
From the hollow below the house, Coyotes howled in clattering, broken yips, disappointed in the retreat.
Behind him the woman stirred, whimpered.
The Old One returned to his vigil at her bedside. The woman's hand slipped over the edge of the mattress and rested on his chest where it stayed. He resisted the urge to lick her fingers. She was not awake, did not know of the Many, did not understand—not really—how close Death was and how much it hated them. But her dreams were full of them, made her shiver and sometimes and call out in her sleep. He didn't know how much she understood, but if her bad dreams were any indication, she smelled evil, even if she didn't know what to call it.
They were growing bolder as he aged and the other two were not enough to drive them back from the borders. Lately they were entering the house, still one at a time and still easy to chase away, but eventually they would come in packs, bringing the Coyotes with them. And then what?
He turned to rest his head on the woman's hand, feeling the ache of his own bones, but drawing strength from her presence.
She needed another protector. The family did. Someone fleet of foot. Someone unexpected.
He knew what he had to do, as the old ones had before him. But was he up to one last battle?