The cave is at the base of a ravine that presented itself challenging to climb down, but trees having grown at odd angles aided them on their way.
Wait! Isaac said, we can’t just barge in. There’s light coming from it, you know someone has to be in there.
I guess you’re right. Here. Step right there, I have you, come on. Well, we need to get out of this storm. Let’s at least check it out.
Once at the bottom, Alaric and Isaac quickly dashed over toward the rocky terrain of the cave’s entrance and peered in. The space within was vast. Torches lace the rock walls penetrating chilling darkness with a soft flickering orange glow that bathed the cavern in a unique warmth. It irradiated loose stones littering the ground, huge wooden tables near the back with various bottles, books, and—
Fuck! Alaric thought bringing a hand to his mouth as his stomached turned, and Isaac averted his eyes…
Ugh, what the hell… He said, taking another look.
Near the back, a table stood upright with a gigantic humanoid wolf beast was strapped and dismembered into six parts with a pentagram over its body.
What the is going on here? It looks… it looks like a first-class werewolf, or well, what’s left of one. There’s something written on its body… Alaric squinted and tried to take a step closer, but Isaac bit the back of his cloak stopping him.
Are you stupid?? Don’t even think about it!
I’m not going in; I just want a closer loo—
Alaric suddenly shuffled Isaac back! Pressing firmly against the mountainy side as rocks prodded his spine and instinctively put an arm out over the wolf. Rain steadily beat down on them, and one of Isaac’s paws broke a fallen branch.
It was an accident! What is it??
I think I saw something move!
Oh, now we’re cautious.
A moment later a blood curdling yell came out from within the cavern.
“THREES, THREES, THREES!!” It screamed out causing their bodies to tense, “Yes…Yes… Just like Master taught me, but WHY ISN’T IT WORKING?!”
The voice that bellowed out was horrendous; Almost as if several voices were coming out simultaneously to meet in discord. Isaac felt the low rumble in its throat vibrating throughout the cave, and Alaric motioned that he was going in for another look.
No ~ Isaac thought as Alaric peeped his head around the corner of the archway.
He saw a shirtless man move toward the werewolf’s body and picked up a crystal orb before it off one of the tables. He stood there staring at the monster before him and started smashing the orb into the corpse, threw it, and as it smashed into a million pieces!
“DAMNIT!!” He screamed, “Fuck! We have to get this right Jack! Master is going to be very unpleased with us, Jack! JACK?! Oh— You think you can hide from me, huh? You forget I’m in your head?! Heh. Heh. HAHAHA! COME HERE JACK!”
What’s happening?? Isaac said poking Alaric’s back, I wanna see!
Isaac, this guy is crazy! He beat the werewolf with something and now he’s… shuffling papers around? Whoever Jack is, I don’t wanna be him. I can’t see the guys face, he’s wearing some kind of mask, but something is wrong with his arm. Here, maybe you can see.
Lemme take a look!
“Jack!” The man screamed out again, “if you don’t come here right now, I’m going to be very, ANGRY! This is your—”
Don’t move!! Alaric tensed his arm over white fur as he watched the man whirl around and sniff toward the entrance.
“Jack…” He said with a deep inhale and let out a long sigh, “I think we have visitors… Please. Come in.”
Alaric and Isaac’s heart pounded in their ears. There was a long silence as neither one of them moved. Still, and lifeless like statues. Lightning flashed brilliantly breaking the darkness of the ravine and thunder cracked out from the sky.
“I can smell your scent; I can hear your breathing. It’s not polite to spy on people… I said, COME OUT! NOW!!” his low rumble rivaled that and of the thunder, and Alaric obeyed.
Walking through the large archway he was able to see better what the guy looked like, and Isaac followed in after.
The lower half of the man’s face was wrapped with bandages with little splurges of blood seeping through and had long shaggy brown hair. Pale, shirtless, and built well. Unpolished ebony steel protects his legs and basks in the glimmer of fire illuminance bringing forth its age and fatigue. Blackened plates, coming to a point at the sides overlap one another as it built its way up from the man’s foot to his waist. A solid piece layered the outer thigh and red linen could be seen underneath the armor with a brown leather belt holding up the undergarment. Two thick leather straps branched off from the belt, crisscrossed, and drooped down his thighs.
Alaric and Isaac’s attention, however, were immediately drawn toward his hand and ear that are— Abnormal.
The man’s right arm looked as if the skin had been shredded and outgrew something horrifying in its place. A normal looking thumb remained, but the rest from the mid forearm down was a crud brownish black color with loose fragments of original skin around it. Thick and muscular, the fingers were twice the size of a normal mans and had sharp talons for claws. The ear was of the same way. With his hair pinned back on the left side and ear resembling that of the wolf beast had grown out coming to a sharp pointed tip.
Isaac’s breath shortened, and Alaric’s hands broke out in a cold sweat. The atmosphere became a tangible menacing aura. A living force, that crept deep into their hearts gripped tightly, and left them completely paralyzed
Isaac’s mouth dried… I…can’t believe it. H-He’s done the taboo, but where’s his wolf?
“Ahh, you are a fine-looking young man!” The stranger moved his head from side to side, “And what a magnificent wolf you have! You must forgive me. Sometimes my temper can get- out of control. Who might you two be, and why are you spying on me?”
They’re taken aback by how silvery his voice was to the point where Isaac questioned if it was even the same man that was talking earlier.
“We’re no one, just traveling is all.”
“Travelin?” The man let out a cold laugh, “This weather is a bit- sour to be traveling now isn’t it? You must be exhausted! Come in, share our fire.”
He gestured toward a fire pit that’s to their right and lets out two ticking sounds. Beyond it a wolf leaped down off a ledge and walked over toward him. Its fur is as black as night and matched the man’s armor— unkept, and distressed. As the wolf prowled across the cave a huge scar down its side got put on display, and both take note that half its ear is missing along with a couple of toes. A golden eye fixed itself onto them as it approached the man. Standing, its back comes up to the height of the man’s armpit and took a seat beside him. “My name is Malachi, and this is Jack.”
Isaac stared at the massive black wolf. A scar runs down Jack’s eye and what looked like thick hemp rope was used to sew the socket shut. Ugh, he said with pure disgust, he took his eye??
“That’s alright.” Alaric said unintentionally breaking his eyes off of Malachi and looked at the corpse with a deep furrowed brow. “I think it best if we leave.”
He had always heard about the size of these werewolf’s but had never seen a 1st class one in person. The sheer size and muscle structure alone are purely overwhelming with the table standing at nine feet just to accommodate it.
The werewolf’s decapitated head was about the size of Alaric’s chest and stared forward into the abyss of nothingness. A long rusty iron spike had been driven into its mouth and a leather strap fastened its skull to the table with the cranium having been sawed open. Leather straps also fastened its severed limbs and chest with iron spikes driven into the wrists and ankles. Light from the torches adds a certain, eeriness, as it danced over the werewolf’s darken pale blue skin. Revealing runic carvings all over its torso and glistened over intestines wrapped around the five iron spikes forming the pentagram across its body.
We need to leave Isaac, now. Alaric thought as his heart quickened, damn you legs. I- I…I can’t move. My body. Run. Why can’t I run? Run!
Alaric, you gotta calm down. You’re not breathing. Take a breath. Isaac tried to inhale but the breath came in shaky in a failed attempt to mitigate his own heartbeat. He’s done the taboo, so we’re only going to out of this with a clear head, right? It looks like they’ve been here awhile, and I can only smell the two of them here, but I don’t think we could make a run for it without them catching us.
“Don’t worry about him.” Malachi said, taking notice of their composure. “It was an experiment that I’ve been working on that unfortunately failed, but I don’t think you’re going anywhere. I can’t let Okami blood walk in and out just like that. Oh, don’t be so surprised. You don’t think I wouldn’t recognize that cloak? Okami tribe, is it not?”
What does he mean by ‘experiment’, Isaac thought, what could he have possibly been trying to do? He tried to gather as much information from the surround area that he could.
“Well this is a pleasant surprise! If I knew I would’ve been getting a visit from clan royalty I would’ve,” Malachi looked around the cave, “Tidied up the place. It’s odd though. I thought everyone got burned in that fire. You’re not an imposter are you? Who’s your father? Isiah, Lycidias,”
Alaric don’t answer. We need to think, he’s not stable… the taboo is a tricky thing. A repulsive thing.
“Godric, and they weren’t burned. It wasn’t some sort of accident, they were murdered.”
“Godric the Great?! Ahhh, the honorable Chief of Aethrid! I should’ve known by those silver plates. If memory serves right he only had one son, so you’re the blueblood, huh? Well, let me tell you something, Son of Godric, you are right. They weren’t burned. Fear has an indistinguishable smell to it, there’s almost a bitterness to it, and you put off the same fear your father did just before I killed him.”
Isaac furiously snapped his head fixing it onto Malachi.
Alaric was speechless…
“I don’t see what you’re so flustered about, you should be proud of their sacrifice! Those villagers found what people search their whole lives for. To be apart of something bigger than themselves, and not for something so petty as power or gold. No. No~ but for the world to simply burn.”
“Shut up… Shut. Up. Do you have any idea the suffering they went through? All of them. The women, children, I was in the barn. I was apart of it. Do you have any idea?!”
“Well they’re dead now, so what does it matter? Can’t really feel anything, am I right?
Alaric’s skin felt like thousands of needles were prickling him as he clinched a shaking fist. The world grew silent as rage consumed him. Fear burned away into the deepest form of animosity, and blood, lightly dripped out his fist as he clinched it harder. His eyes became wild but spoke calm, cold, and flat.
“You’re… the Unigani…”
“Unigani… Pft! A name coined by peasants. We are the Sons and Daughters of Erastrad. We are the shadows of the night, the bringers of truth. Your people helped us get one step closer toward the Fables, I should be thanking you! Heh. Heh. Yes, Master was very pleased, and now, you’re going to help me please them again! I’ve been here trying to find a way to steal strength from our kind, they say it can be done, and what better test subject than an Okami blueblood! It’s said that your clan was one of the strongest out of our kind after all! In particular that coward of a leader Godric, but oh! How. He. Begged for mercy just before I ripped his throat out! ‘No! Please! I have a son! A wife!’ It was so…” Malachi let out a moan as he grabbed his face. “Arousing!”
The both of them had been pushed to the point of no returned.
Well Isaac... I guess it’s finally time… the wolf is yours… leave this guy to me.
“I’m going to kill you.” Alaric said with the flatness of Ire. “For what you did, for what you’re doing… They- will have their revenge.”
“Heh. Heh. HAHAHAHA! Did you hear that Jack?! He says he’s going to kill us! Oh... Oh, you did hear it? Then why the FUCK ARE YOU STILL HERE?!!!”
Malachi’s beast-like hand punched the wolf with such force his head slammed down on the cave floor with a loud thud! Jack, lets out a pitiful yelp, picks himself off the ground, and charged their way.
An unearthly snarl emitted from Isaac’s throat that transforms into a death-defying roar! He slammed a gigantic paw down tremoring the earth around it and took off! Paws pounded powerfully as he picked up speed instantly becoming a white flash that leaped into the air to collide with Jack! Grabbing a mouthful of black fur his fangs seeped deep into the wolf’s throat as they rose on their hind legs! Jack jerked free, and Isaac quickly went in again on the other side slamming him to the ground! The wolf uses his hind legs and kicked Isaac off sending him flying through the air!
“Yes! YES! That’s the spirit! Well, come on then, son of Godric! Hit me…. Hit me! HAHAHA! HIT ME!”
Springing into action faster than he thought he could move Alaric rushed toward Malachi! The black wolf quickly dashed in between them, and he punched Jack in the jaw that sent him flying! Isaac raced after him!
Malachi lost himself with maniacal laughter, planted his feet firmly into the ground, held his hands behind his back, and screamed!
“COME ON! I WANTCHA TO DO IT! DO IT! HIT ME!”
Alaric gave the punch everything he physically had. Six years of pent up anger and sadness into one deadly left straight that Malachi’s face absorbed and sent him soaring! He crashed through the back of cave wall! The ceiling vibrated! Rocks tumbled! Thunder breathed out from the heavens uproariously filling the cave that dissipated into the sounds of snarls, and furious barking!
As the rubble subdues— a bone chilling laugh came out of the darkness.
“Shit…” He watched as Malachi climbed out of the debris.
“Now that, THAT’S A PUNCH!”
Alaric watch out!
Turning around he saw teeth lunging at him as Jack tackled him to the ground! Alaric wrapped his hands around the wolf’s neck fighting back jaws snapping inches away from his face! The black beast’s claws dug deep into his chest and as Isaac dove in they rolled off Alaric in a blur of biting and scratching. Before he could get up though he felt something snatch his ankle and everything became upside-down. Malachi hoisted him up with his beast like arm and went for a breathtaking uppercut!  Alaric blocked to no effect! The wind immediately gets knocked out of him and he gets thrown as if he were a mere rag doll! He smashed through one of the tables! Bottles shattered! Planks of wood, and books flew everywhere!
Isaac and Jack tumbled around the cave in a fit of pure chaos! Both of them fought for the upper hand to deliver the final blow- The wolves launch themselves back! Isaac tasted the blood dripping down from his snout and his lust grew for it. Him and Jack prowled around one another waiting for the right moment to attack, each raising paws and trading flinches with bared teeth. Jack roared and leaped in with razor-sharp claws that slashed Isaac’s face! White fur became a mixture of pink and crimson as he dodges the next blow and went in for his attack! Latching onto his throat, Isaac twisted his head wildly trying to break the wolf’s windpipe. Jack tore free!
Alaric gasped for air and quickly rushed back in and swinging at Malachi! Fists clashed with a loud bang! He went in with his right, but Malachi caught it! He then went in with his left, but that gets caught too! Alaric’s hands get pulled in and then there’s a loud crack! Blood gushed out of his nose and his vision blurred from watery eyes as he felt something plow into his stomach! A hand grabs a handful of his hair and cold steel meets his face as Malachi raises a knee slamming it into his head!
“You’re going to have to do much better than that, son of Godric!” He mocked as Alaric stumbled back.
“Bthaa!” he spit out some blood, “I’m just getting warmed up!”
Blow after blow are exchanged and Alaric soon realized that he was the only one trying to block or dodge. Every punch he threw Malachi made no effort to get out of its way, but instead, took all of it and returned the blow!
Isaac… this guy is freakishly strong! He thought trying to block, but Malachi plowed through his defenses!
His wolf is too! Jack’s missing eye doesn’t affect him at all!
You think you could get away from him?
When I say now, be ready.
Are you sure?? Last time it cracked your sternum!
I’ll be fine! Just get ready!
Alaric dodged a punch, stepped in to hit, and weaved his way out! Isaac turned to use the saddle as a shield against Jack’s paw and then tried to kick him with his hind legs, coming around with a paw that knocked the wolf down!
Alaric I can break!
Alright! Come on!
Malachi swung his beast-like arm with talons barely missing by an inch! He swings it again and Alaric sidesteps into a counter! Stepping deep into a left hook, Alaric brings his arm up to wrap around Malachi’s beast like one, pinning it.
“Now!” He screams out and in a white flash two front paw kick off Alaric’s chest! Spinning around the wolf’s hind legs are like a loaded gun that fire straight at Malachi’s head and he hits the ground! The floor cracks around him as the rock absorbs the shock!
Alaric ducks as Jack jumps after him and Isaac collides with the wolf midair but brutally gets taken down! Standing up, he got a surprising kick!
What the hell?! Does nothing hurt this guy??
He quickly blocked the blow sliding a few feet back from it and in a whirl that Alaric couldn’t see he suddenly felt a death grip around his hair that lift him up and smashes his face into the ground! An indention from his skull formed into the cracked rock bed as Malachi repeated smashed his head! Alaric faded in and out of consciousness. Malachi flipped him over, pinned him on the ground and Alaric tried to take his free hand to move the leg that’s crushed his arm, but lacked the strength to do so…
“Tell me, son of Godric,” He said leaning in closer, “do you know why we’re considered the weakest race of our kind?”
Isaac! Isaac, help I can’t get up!
“It’s from the bond we form with our wolf.” Malachi continued, “The moment we imprint and build the connection it immediately puts us at a disadvantage from the other two of our kind. It’s something we can’t help though, it’s simply in our DNA, but that doesn’t mean we have to be destined at the bottom. There’s a reason why the other two don’t form bonds, and why they’re stronger than us! Only once you, BREAK IT!” Alaric lets out a howl as the bone in his arm shattered, “That is when you can truly be free, and evolve! Just like how Bane did!”
“You’ve gone mad! You’re practicing something that’s been forbidden! You can’t split your soul like this!”
“Unfortunately, we can’t turn into wolfmen that easily by simply killing our wolf, or mine would’ve been dead long ago! But!” He said ripping the bandages off his face. “We can transfer they’re strength to us! Well?! Heh. Heh. HAHAHA! WHAT DO YA THINK?!”
Underneath the mask, Malachi had no lips; his skin had been shredded from ear to ear and only teeth showed. Jagged fangs, crooked and varying in size give him the appearance of a permanent, terrifying smile. Alaric stared in horror as three eyes stared back at him. One of his wolf’s golden eyes as attached itself to Malachi’s grey iris, and the stress from doing this showed in the bags underneath his eyes. It left his face dry and cracked almost as if his wrinkles were like chapped lips.
“You’re a monster…”
Isaac kicked Jack away and swooped in with jaws open to rip Malachi! Malachi however was too quick and caught the wolf by the throat, slammed him down, and threw him back toward Jack who started biting him.
“Isaac!! AHHH!” The yell soon turns into an ear-piercing scream as Malachi bite Alaric savagely tearing at him!
He heard a whoosh and the biting suddenly stopped. Looking up through weak eyes he saw an arrow sticking out of Malachi’s shoulder. The sound of horses galloped in and the weight released off him, and a moment later he felt somebody grab him.
“Alaric!! Alaric! Are you okay??”
His blurred vision turned to blackness…