The flies had engorged themselves in the morning light. They bumped into Romasanta’s arms and face as he walked up to the blood-soaked field. He covered his nose and mouth; the air tainted with the smell of iron as he looked over what little was left of his bull. Pieces of guts scattered across the mud, but the drag marks led through the broken fence and into the Black Forest. Somewhere in there laid the rest of his cow.
Squatting, he looked over the paw print that lay at his feet. The smallest toe was large enough for his own foot to fit inside. This was the work of the demon wolf called Fenrir. The trees, the ground at his feet; all of it was Fenrir’s domain and he tolerated Romasanta and his farm. They lived in the field where no trees grew in hopes that they would be on safer ground. Everything in this land was Fenrir’s to take or leave, including Romasanta’s own life. Waving off another flock of plump flies, he headed back to his hut.
“Was it the bull?” His wife questioned, her brown eyes expressing her concern. “You don’t intend to chase after Fenrir this time, do you Romasanta?”
“No.” Grunting, he lugged his travel pack over a shoulder. “That would be suicide.”
“What are you doing then?” She was chasing him out the door as he grabbed up his spear. “If you dare cross him, surely he’ll take us nex—”
“I just want to see where he dragged the bull. If I can salvage a horn or some leather, perhaps we can get something back.” His jaw twitched as a line of sweat crawled down his temple. “I have no plans of staying out overnight, my love.”
“Please, don’t go.” She hugged him tightly, pressing her face hard into his chest. “If the nomads find out you dare leave me alone, they would surely drag me away from this place.”
“They will not come close with Fenrir feeding on our cattle.” Kissing her on her forehead, he brushed back a lock of her wavy black hair. “Just stay inside the hut until I return.”
Standing on her toes, she pressed her lips hard against his, earning his passion in return. It was a bitter sensation as he broke away from the kiss, walking into the Black Forest without glancing back. Her large doe-like eyes watched as he vanished between the thick trees behind the broken fence still crimson and wet where the blood soaked it.
The drag marks led him deeper into the more dangerous part of the ancient forest. Sunlight speckled the ground where large roots leapt in and out of the earth. Large arches made from these tangled wooden specters reminded demon and man that they were inferior among the trees of the Black Forest. He stayed true to the path that soaked the earth with blood. A raven cawed, startling him as he froze mid-step, his nerves knotting in his stomach.
A horn snagged in a root caught his eye and he worked it free, placing it in the pack at his waist. Perhaps there was a chance to recover some of his lost bull after all. Continuing on, he found himself in a brighter, newer section of the forest. His path stopped on the edge of a crevasse cut into the forest floor. There were no more signs of his bull or Fenrir anymore. Rubbing the sweat from his brow, a glint of red caught his eye. At the bottom of the groove in the earth, something gave off a scarlet glow.
Taking one last look around, assuring himself there were no predators, he started to climb down. Making it to the bottom, he peered upward. The walls of the crevasse were easily four times taller than he, but he was relieved to see no signs of the bull or wolf. Turning around, facing deeper into the unseen parts, he scanned the rocky walls for another sign of the faint glow. The hairs on his arms prickled in excitement as another sheen of colored light called out to him.
An alcove held a glimmering gem about the size of a man’s fist. As he approached, its light became brighter, as if encouraging him to free it from the stone. Gripping it tight with both hands, he steadied a foot on the rocks, putting his full weight into pulling it out. Jerking his weight into it, it broke from the rock face sending him stumbling up against the far wall. As he leaned there, the sunlight hitting his hands, he opened his fist to see what it was that he had claimed for himself.
The gemstone’s light dissipated and within it, a liquid bubbled and swirled. He had heard rumors of bloodstones found in the area, but this was the first time he had encountered one. The powerful vibrations the gem gave off told him this could be something more. It was of the deepest red he had ever witnessed as it mesmerized him. Heat flowed from it, making the summer temperature feel cool by comparison. Focusing on a sound that tickled his ears it seemed as if a humming sound was coming from it. A curious sound called his attention deeper into it, almost as if a whisper on the wind.
Growling broke him away from the stone. His gaze stopped at two large golden eyes that glowered down at him. Fenrir had found him. Romasanta shivered as the demon wolf took another step closer, baring his enormous fangs. Staring in awe, one canine was the size of Romasanta’s forearm, if not larger. Another step forward allowed him to smell the blood of his bull upon Fenrir’s breath as he growled louder. The sound coming from the beast’s chest and muzzle shook the air from Romasanta’s lungs. He had overstepped his boundaries. Fenrir was enraged. The black wolf had planned to lure him out this far the whole time. Pain pounded against Romasanta’s chest, his heart screaming to be set loose as fear washed over him. Fenrir had him; he was to be the next kill. As the monstrous wolf lunged, Romasanta could only raise his arms in defense. The action would do him no good against the demon wolf.
Fangs dug deep into his arms. He screamed from the twisting pain as muscles popped in half, bones rattled as the impact greeted them. Blinding red light stopped the horrendous bite from breaking his bones. Fenrir’s eyes grew wide. The stone pulsed and burned in Romasanta’s hand as a red glow engulfed the demon wolf. Both of them were startled as the massive monster swirled in the air like fog. Horrified, Romasanta watched as the stone absorbed the demon into it.
Sliding down to his feet, he dropped the stone. The wounds that still stung in his mind closed before his eyes. He could not stop his body from shaking as a desperate howl echoed from within the stone. Staring down into the bubbling red, Romasanta stared into the fearful eyes of Fenrir. Both knew that neither of them had realized what had happened.
“What in the world is this stone?” He breathed in wonder, hesitant to pick it up. “Fenrir, we may be enemies, but this is a fate no creature should live. I will make a pact to find a means to set you free – if you, in turn, let me live my days out in peace here in your forest.”
Another howl rung out and the eyes of the wolf returned within the stone. The solidarity of the gaze made it clear they had reached an agreement.