Wolf's Blood

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Dreams & nightmares

The crickets made their melodic chirring but they were drowned out by the songs of the sparrows waking for a new day. As the screen door shut at the Seller’s place Aticus drew in a deep breath and sighed. Another new day, he had seen hundreds of thousands of them, but he knew somehow this day was different. He had been given a purpose for living again.

Aticus rubbed his cheeks; his cheeks were pulled taunt again, the elasticity of his face returning, not the wrinkly visage from before, even his very bone structure denser. He took in a deep breath, the muscles in his chest engorged and tight, he felt in his prime again; a strong heart now pumping blood throughout his veins.

The howling stopped. Aticus was sure that Lance had by now made it inside to check up on Alex and Tracy, so he began lazily strolling along the property’s boundaries. He untied and took off his boots, wiggling his toes against the soft grass.

He looked down at his hands; He mentally made the hairs on his hand sprout up. Soon, hairs were replaced by fur; fingers were lengthening and fingernails growing until they were claws. He turned his paw-like hands, turning them so he could see his palms, the palms thickening to toughened pads. All of this took seconds to occur, but to Aticus it seemed like a lifetime of agonizing, excruciating pain as his body was still not yet used to the experience.

Concentrating, his hands were human hands again. The lines on his hands seemed to have disappeared. His hands were flawless, reminding him of marble or granite and somehow reminding him of his sister, Ayaa, and of the Lucem Dei.

Aticus lay down on the soft grass to soak up the upcoming sun’s rays. Yawning, he rubbed at his eyes or the socket that used to be his eye and the one that remained. Fragments of silver had embedded into his socket, forever disrupting his ability to transform or heal. One more centimeter further and the fragments would have hit his pineal gland, preventing any metamorphosis altogether. It would not have killed him, he was an old lycanthrope after all, but it would have aged him greatly. Without the metamorphosis to renew old cells he would not be here today. He had survived the encounter, but the fragments remained securely embedded into his brain, forever changing his biochemistry. Every day, every hour, every second, for all of his life until the day that he dies he could expect excruciating headaches that rocked his foundation. He grimaced as he grasped at his ear or at an ear mangled and deformed with the lobe missing. Angry fangs emerged in his mouth but vanished just as quickly, he was determined to make the most of this new day. Aticus closed his eye daydreaming of Ayaa and of his family.

As a human and mortal when you become older the memories of your childhood quickly fade away, but with a lycanthrope or other immortal, as time wears on many childhood memories become romanticized. As time progressed in the truly ancient, some lycanthrope could even remember a romanticized version of their very birth. The process of metamorphosing from human to Wolf and back again, a process in which the entire body cell by cell tears apart and molds itself back together again and again. Dying and coming to life again as a different being. For the ancient of his kind their whole life, including their birth, would eventually flash before their eyes. As the centuries wear on, more and more memories flashed though the werewolves’ minds, more vivid and vibrant than before.

He tried to put away the skeleton key to his dark cobwebbed closet but ultimately could not. Memory after painful memory flooded through his brain as he lay in the Sun. His head throbbing as it always did each and every day.

It was a sunny day not unlike today, however, the bitter cold rolled in from the Siberian forest. A beautiful Raven-black Grey wolf’s legs shook at the weight of her swollen pregnant belly. She bayed out at the sky that today would be the day that she would give birth. She walked into the forest on swollen knees just far enough to shelter her from the elements. She found a place secure from the snow by a grouping of rocks and the dense canopy and coverage of Siberian pine where the ground did not see the sun let alone the snow. She eventually found a crevice in the rock formation, and then she lay on her side and whimpered as the contractions grew more frequent and stronger.

Her mate had vanished shorty after they conceived and now she had to give birth alone. Hours turned into a day as the sun rose over the horizon, painting a beautiful mixture of crimson and purple across the sky that man had no hope to ever in his vanity duplicate. Panting, shivering, and nauseous, the exhausted she-wolf bore down. One by one in sixty minute intervals she gave birth to four still born pups.

She had no time to mourn; however, contractions compelled her to push again. A stout blind black wolf, a boy, burst from the safety of her womb resting his unstable limbs on the frozen ground. The she-wolf lovingly licked the remains of the placental membrane off his face.

“Ooow…” The black pup exclaimed, shivering at the sudden shock of cold on his little wet paws.

This time her heart raced in excitement as another one of her young burst out from between her loins. The placental membrane tore from the pup’s face revealing a flat wet nose on the scrawny yet lively little female.

“Ayaaaa,” the blind pup yowled as she searched, blind and cold, in the dirt for her mother.

Another contraction rocked her again, involuntary muscle contractions told the she-wolf to push one last time. Howling, bitter, icy wind and the warm earth intermingled into a moist white fog as an infant emerged. Tiny at four pounds, three ounces, white as snow and shivering, a baby boy had been born.

Though precious, the baby was a strange sight to behold. Tresses of matted black hair ringed around his crown, skinny with long arms, legs, big hands and feet. He had no umbilical cord so he had no belly button to speak of. His face was obscured by the placental membrane which the she-wolf steadily licked off him. She dare not waste such an easy source of protein, and made sure she got all of it.

The two newborn pups, Oyo and Ayaa, eventually found their way back to their brother and then to their mother’s warmth. The membrane had been cleaned from the human baby’s face leaving a thin opaque film on his eyes. The film masked the brilliance of his emerald green eyes.

With a heavy heart the she-wolf gathered the stillborn babies to her chest with her paws and lovingly consumed them. One by one stopping for the briefest moment to mourn each one she eventually ate them all, now they were a part of her and merging with her again.

Feeding time, which was evidenced by the two puppies’ and the one baby’s consistent, exasperating shrieking of their little but endearing mouths. Oyo blindly bullied himself on his mother’s swollen and tender teats. Positioning his body in such a manner that only one teat remained. Ayaa finally located the only available teat remaining suckling the live giving sustenance that only a mother could provide.

Aticus searched for his own milk source but came up dry. Ultimately, defeated, Aticus rolled off the feeding trio and flopped to the ground. The baby did not cry as the bitter cold wind smacked his cheeks like sandpaper. The starving baby did not wail but his stomach churned in knots. Out from the mothers warming presence and famished Aticus waved his balled fists in the air and closed his green eyes.

Aticus felt a cold wet nose nuzzling his neck. Ayaa interrupted her feeding to find him. She whimpered at Aticus and gently nudged him toward their mother’s warmth. With a little coaxing she persuaded Aticus to try and latch onto the one available teat. However, he was met with snarls of warnings by their brother.

Ayaa snapped to defend her brother Aticus. She angrily jumped for Oyo’s throat, toppling him down and off their mother. All of the teats were now free Ayaa wrestled around with Oyo until she heard her human brother safely suckling from their mother. Confident that her human brother got his fill Ayaa stopped tussling Oyo and searched blindly for her mother again. With Ayaa between Aticus and Oyo as a buffer the three finally fed peacefully.

A week or two passed and the pups opened their eyes, all but Aticus; his eyes were strangely already open at birth. Despite the occasional dispute, which Ayaa quickly squashed, the trio were inseparable, especially Aticus and Ayaa. On frigid nights the possibility of freezing to death always imminent because of Aticus’ fragile human skin so Ayaa lay beside her brother to keep him warm. They learned to get along and to play together, pretending to hunt together despite Aticus’ obvious shortcomings and disadvantages.

Mother Wolf lazed about on the cold ground watching her pups at play. Frolicking about without a care in the world, human occupations did not threaten them, at least for a while. Oyo and Ayaa developed at a normal lupine rates and Aticus’ biochemistry was that of a lupine too, despite the human frame he had grown at an accelerated rate. At three feet, four inches, he had outgrown his brother and sister but he still walked on all fours, a consequence of living among wolves. Ayaa and Aticus played a spirited round of hide and seek while Oyo stealthily stalked his oblivious brother.

Aticus found his sister hiding in a hole in a massive hollow tree. He scratched wildly on the bark. His fingernails were not yet strong enough to do any actual damage to the bark of a healthy tree but Aticus’ strong fingers managed to tear off the bark of a rotten one, revealing Ayaa.

Ayaa snapped playfully at Aticus’ chin with enough force to surprise him who reflexively withdrew, enabling his sister’s escape under overgrown brush. Whirling around to go after his sister suddenly the breath flew from his lungs in an audible “whoosh”, Oyo had hurtled all his weight at his unsuspecting brother. Aticus could not move. His brother’s muscular paws had pinned his human shoulders down.

Oyo had always distrusted Aticus. Oyo and Aticus may have been brothers but secretly he disdained Aticus. After all he was abnormal, an oddity, hairless, tailless and no muzzle to speak of, so Oyo could not understand Aticus and Ayaa’s friendship and jealousy began to rear its ugly head. Oyo growled a menacing growl; much different than the frisky growls that were heard every day by Aticus and Ayaa, a growl of warning and a threat of violence.

Oyo’s paws pressed down hard on Aticus’ shoulders, his claws slicing the skin until blood flowed freely. Oyo’s snarling spittle pooled on Aticus’ chest. His crooked head, ears back and stiffened tail, told of a looming strike. His jaws clamped down on Aticus’ throat before he had a chance to react. Aticus yelped as he futilely tried to escape his brother. Aticus arched his back and wildly kicked with all his might. A dirty foot caught Oyo under the rib cage; another foot caught him in the groin.

Ayaa peeked out from a thicket of overgrown wild berries bushes, full of sharp thorns. The high, shrill distress call from her brother made her suddenly spring into action, howling a response. Her paws hardly touched the muddy frozen ground as she ran to rescue Aticus.

By the time Ayaa got to her brother’s side the scene had changed drastically. Aticus had escaped Oyo’s paws and gotten his neck out from Oyo’s clutches. Oyo, still reeling in pain from the shot to the groin, lay on his side on the snow covered ground. Ayaa seized the opportunity and biting Oyo’s back haunch, tried to wrench him away from Aticus. It was no use whatsoever as Oyo kicked his back legs, hitting Ayaa square in the muzzle.

Aticus heard his sister yelp in pain and saw her reel away, whimpering. Ayaa had fought for him tried to protect him often because, no matter how strange he appeared to be he was still family, for her loyalty she was now huddled in pain injured on the ground. Something inside him snapped.

Aticus dug his hands and feet deep into the snow and barreled straight at his brother who was already on his feet bracing for impact. The dueling brothers crashed into one another, the impact startling ravens and with a flapping of wings they flew from their nesting branches. Squawks of warning as the birds flew away, a few black feathers swirling in the wind.

Oyo scratched at Aticus leaving bloody gashes in his back across his naked human skin. Aticus tried to sink his fingers into his brother’s neck and shoulders, to rip into him, but his human fingernails were just too short to penetrate his brother’s thick fur. They were locked in a deadly embrace, twirling around one another so fast the human eye could not follow.

Oyo the pup fought as a wolf, Aticus the human fought as though he was a wolf too. However, upon two legs the wounded Aticus had the upper hand for a moment. Aticus’ large furless hand finally caught Oyo’s neck. His paws left the ground and he flailed wildly about trying to catch any piece of Aticus that he could with his snapping fangs.

He growled, snarled, and wailed as he tried to bite and scratch his way out from Aticus’ clutches. Aticus yelped as a claw came at his face. Blood streamed into his eyes from the gash on his forehead but Aticus did not relent. Even with the stinging blood blinding him and his body bruised and wounded, his grip did not loosen. His hand tightened on Oyo’s throat until he whimpered with his tail between his legs, a sign of surrender.

The mother wolf had secretly been watching as the conflict played out. She had just caught two wild rabbits and ripped them apart, she regurgitated what was left for her children. A series of yips and yowls told the younglings it was now feeding time and any conflict must be suspended.

Ayaa was the first to lick her wounds and wander over to feed. Aticus was exhausted and had lost a significant amount of blood. Only twenty feet away from the life-sustaining nourishment but with his bruised and battered body he may as well have been a mile away. Still gasping for breath and on his back, Oyo had no intentions of eating until he caught his breath. Ayaa finished her share then lapped up a little extra. She slowly strolled over to her two brothers and ignoring Oyo altogether she sat at Aticus’ side. She spewed out the mush close enough so that he could eat without moving, movement begat pain. Ayaa’s rough tongue licked at Aticus’ gashes on his neck, shoulder, and chest until they were clean and had stopped leaking.

Oyo, with his tail still between his legs, slowly and painfully limped over to his mother. He stopped twice to look over his shoulder at Aticus and Ayaa, involuntarily growling in humiliation and jealousy as he watched their unbreakable bond.

Satisfied that Aticus’ stomach was now full, Ayaa circled around her brother, scratched the dirt with her claws and lay down next to him. Any slight noise caused her ears to perk up; any movement that Oyo made caused Ayaa to snarl in defense of her human brother. The mother wolf noticed this and smiled a wolf’s smile as she lay down on the ground to soak up the sun’s rays. At least one of her pups had taken a real shine to the strange furless pup. She had grown fond of, with all his strange quirks and differences, this mix of pup and babe. After all, he had defended the den when unwanted scavengers, though piglets, had invaded it. He had become a true wolf in every sense with the only exception his delicate and fragile skin. She had seen the conflict between the two brothers and her heart said stop it, but however bloody it became, her pups would become stronger for it, so she did nothing but watch. Over now, Aticus was the clear winner of the conflict and had become the strongest of the three, surprising and delighting even mother wolf. Ayaa clearly had grown quite fond of her brother Aticus, so maybe Oyo in time would grow fond of him too, or at least now if another conflict arose she knew Aticus could take care of himself.

Mother-wolf closed her eyes in the sunlight and relaxed, knowing her family could fend for themselves and the first time Aticus would be left in charge. A slight chill wind from the north near the mountains gently flew through her old gray fur as she made herself comfortable then drifted off to sleep on the steadily melting snow.

The weeks went by without incident in the solitude of the forest while winter and the mountains inhibited human encroachment. Then months blew by, like the blink of an eye. Fall, then winter came and passed and the family of wolves and the human child soon enjoyed a pleasant summer, the only worry locating their next meal. Unfortunately, the next meal had been getting harder and harder to find. Game had relocated closer to the creeks and springs as the ice melted in the heat and long days of summer.

The streams and creeks, the life source of the animals, had always also been a godsend for nearby humans. The humans made their huts and villages further into a Wolf territory. But the wolves migrated away during the day, coming back only to hunt at night; oblivious humans went on with their daily lives unaware of the predators.

Aticus looked over his surroundings high up on the hills where his family rested on a grouping of rocks which might be used as a natural camouflage. Mother wolf had led them here enough times to hunt and drink and they were stealthy enough to not worry about being seen. He could hear his mom singing to the mountains, a howl of sadness, and an aria of loss. Almost the equivalent of an adolescent, he could make out select words and phrases which told the story about a chance meeting and an eerie call to her lost beloved. He feared that it was not the scarcity of game that prompted the move closer to humanity, but rather her lost mate.

Aticus tried his best to interpret the miserable melody… She would wait for him every full moon on the edge of a human village singing a song of joy and sudden sadness. Searching for food in an occupied human territory she happened to spy another dire wolf. She saw a potent male with strange captivating eyes, green eyes the color of emeralds. With thick fur, mane-like in appearance black as night, majestic soft down which windswept in the icy breeze. Their attraction instant; and they begot a litter of three.

Heat burned from her loins as the mother wolf remembered the midnight black wolf with the striking green eyes and how they had feverishly coupled. The pregnancy had demanded more food than usual, human’s livestock a guaranteed morsel but requiring dangerous raids to do so. With the full moon high up in the night sky they had found a family of sleeping sheep nearby a human habitat and stealthily snuck into it. Termite ridden boards easily gave way to the black wolf’s might. The soon to be mother wolf had found a less barbaric and much quieter way to enter into the pen, ducking beneath the loose bottom boards. She had taken the side on which the ground dipped down allowing easier passage for her swollen belly. After some undignified squirming and clawing, she finally made it into the pen. In doing so she had a closer view of the sleeping ewes and plump rams. Her angle where the moon’s light was concealed by the thick tall trees she saw vacant open eyes and the beginnings of the faint smell of decay. She looked up to see her mate already several paces in front of her. The sheep were not sleeping, they did not smell right at all, they were dead, and mother wolf froze.

The black wolf, with the wind against his back, missed the distinct smell of decay and was still on course to capture his prey. With his ears laid back, on his belly, he slowly and methodically crept up to the tempting mass of wool. A squeal than another, a yelp of warning fell out her muzzle then she saw movement coming from the corner of her eyes. Coming from the tall trees and the safety of the cover of darkness four men revealed themselves.

It had all been an elaborate trap.

Crimson cloaks blew in the wind; complete with bronze helmets and padded armor. There helms emblazoned with a triangle and in the middle of the pyramid an all-knowing eye decorated in silver. Marking the three corners were silver sigils that the mother will could not comprehend. Two of the men had spears in their hands; the other one had a large net held at the ready which appeared to be comprised of lightweight silver. Her description of the armored men would be forever burned into her memory. Mother wolf had no worry about being seen herself as the men with their strange crest were too busy concentrating on sneaking up on the prize before them.

Just then the beautiful black wolf stopped his inspection of the dead sheep, a noise catching his attention. His curious demeanor soon turned to a convulsive snarl that shrank his green eyes to slits and exposed two sets of fangs as his upper lip had turned completely inside out, drool foaming out of his mouth and dripping onto the dirt. He heard the three men steadily sneaking up to him before he saw them. Yelps of warning formed in the back of her throat.

Then in an instant the black wolf’s demeanor changed again as he strained to look at his mate. A shrill howl left his throat stopping mother wolf’s attempt to warn her beloved before she had been heard by the three men. She understood the howl. “Run!”

Her heart hurt at the prospect of leaving him but she obeyed. A healthy wolf would rush in and fight off the attackers with tooth and nail. However, two months pregnant every limb in her body ached in constant agony when she walked far, her paws swelled and the tendons strained. A growl from her belly reminded her she would not be eating tonight but that would be okay because her stomach roiled with queasiness and food was the last thing she wanted right now. She slowly recoiled back to the fence, back into the shadows where she had entered. With her paws digging furiously at the shallow ground she was able to widen the hole enough for her exit. Turning around, she backed under the boards on her belly and back onto the grass, never taking her eyes off her beloved.

The elegant black Wolf spun around to the surprise and horror of the three armed men who up till now thought they were tracking the Wolf in silence. Startled, one of them released his spear prematurely. The blade sunk into the earth just inches from the wolf’s shoulder, hitting the ground with enough force to make projectiles out of the small rocks it knocked out of the way. They peppered the wolf’s muzzle and stung his cheeks as if bees defending their hive.

Distracted by the first spear the black wolf had no time to react when the second spear hurtled into the air. Slicing easily through fur and skin, displacing shoulder socket and severing nerves, the wolf’s crimson life’s blood dripped onto the ground followed by a shrill yelp of pain that echoed through the forest, startling wildlife and prompting mother wolf to almost burst from the safety of her concealment beneath a lone thick shrub. What she saw next froze her to the core and confused her primitive wolf’s mind.

Silver interfering with the special “magic” that pulsed in his blood made her mate’s fur recede, leaving a fragile nude muscle bound limb. The spear had impaled the wolf’s shoulder, a special silver cord entwined around the shaft of the spear itself, made the injured arm instantly transform to a human arm, a human arm flapping limply in the crisp wind. Cracking sounds echoed as the ligaments reformed to suit a man’s hand, wrist and elbow.

An unkempt wild blonde-haired boy of no more than 12 or 13 years old smirked in triumph as his spear hit its mark. His eyes lit up in pride as he looked up at his father.

“I got him! I got him, father!” Flushed with pride for his younger son but also a little jealous because after all, his own spear had missed, the man slapped his son hard on his back, clanging his armor.

“I am proud of you my boy!” Glom thundered, smiling a toothless smile.

Malstros’ hands rested on his knees as he crouched down to catch his breath, he remembered it like yesterday when three strangers had arrived at Babylon’s Gate with the proposition for the great King. Glom of the Malstros hillside, known to his people as “the fair”, the right hand for Nebuchadnezzar 2; King of Babylon had sat silently, listening, stiff and unwavering at the side of king’s throne as the three foreigners spoke in turn. He had scrutinized each of the three men one by one as they spouted off their proposals. Then in their native language he deciphered, they were agents of “The God’s Light”, agents tracking men and women they considered a threat to humanity.

“The Fair” had grown up nobody’s fool and was sure there had to be more to the story than met the eye, however, Nebuchadnezzar 2 was blinded by all the gold and jewels which too often appeased him. He agreed to the proposal: a quarter of his army in retainer and three good men for three years to hunt the foul beasts. A substantial award would be granted for the three men for every head brought back to the “God’s Light”. Throat dry from thirst, stomach growling in hunger, yes, Malstros remembered like it had been yesterday.

He and his two sons had tracked this monster wolf for three months now, carrying them far from the safety and prosperity of the Euphrates River and the mighty city of Babylon. Now they were far from their home, between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea near the Kazbegi Mountains. Three times now, they had almost caught the wolf rummaging through the refuse in the outskirts of the village in Armenia on a full-moon night but it had slipped away by dawn’s light. And once, they had nearly caught the monster as a man as he abruptly stopped at a creek to rest and drink. Naked from head to toe, oblivious of the mercenaries watching, the man had stared in quiet wonder at an adult she-wolf who was thirstily lapping at the clear and fresh water. Until a change in the wind had alerted him to their human presences he had been quite captivated with her. He sniffed the air with his human nose and just like that he was gone in a blur.

The scouts had reported with enthusiasm that the beast had returned to the spot that they had nearly captured him at as a man only months before. Currently lurking in the area, his eldest son came up with the idea to lay out bait and wait until the monster came to them. The exhausting and agonizing waiting had paid off in the end as he imagined how he would spend the reward money offered by the God’s Light. Glom stepped back to let his kids do all the hard work. Glom “the fair” Malstros, one of a long line of the much esteemed Malstros family throughout the decades, imagined retiring from military and politics and settling down with the reward money and perhaps a few extra luxuries. The famous hunter stood back unfolding a silver twine net which he quickly tossed to his sons, who together with all their might tossed it over their target with success. The brothers gave each other congratulatory looks before they pulled out their swords in unison.

Now the abominable beast with its one human arm stared with its green glowing beastly eyes following their every move. Horror and disgust should have come over the mother wolf as she watched her beloved become a twisted hybrid of wolf paw and bear arm. No revulsion could be seen in her sorrowful eyes, quite the opposite reaction was evident; she had been mesmerized, filled with wonder and amazement. Her mate was special, amazing. She had not seen another like him. Her black wolf was hurt, trapped and there wasn’t anything she could do about it. She whimpered in frustrated anguish.

With his one injured limb and tangled by the net, the wolf struggled. The two sons faltered, their swords in hand, suddenly losing their bravado as they stared into the eyes of the abomination snapping and snarling at them. His skin rippled like waves on the ocean, tangled and trapped by the net but still dangerous.

Flooding the wolf’s body was something primordial and much too dangerous for humanity… a type of new but antediluvian adrenaline something only the lycanthropes had, something they needed to survive, parasites spitting out an unnatural mixture of new genes and hormones called The Wolf’s Blood.

The uninjured muscles quiver under his black fur and skin began to undulate and entwine. Bundles of the green eyed wolf’s muscles snapped reforming to make it suitable to that of a humanoid; his one good shoulder dislocating as new ligaments began to knit back together again, the ball socket now suitable for a human-like arm. An ancient lycanthropic shifting to suit his needs, seamlessly, effortlessly and instinctually; and that need was sure survival! The hesitation of the two men all he needed to stand up on his human-like legs as his hip bone expanded and contorted to the needs of a biped.

The black wolf had become an amalgamation of wolf and man, more man than wolf except for the head and feet. The feet still remained long, wide, and thick with talon paws that gave it an extraordinary amount of stability. The ankle to the heel functioned as a reverse knee, giving him amazing jumping capabilities. His head still a lupine visage, long muzzled and curved fangs as he continued to snarl at his persecutors. The man-wolf a monstrous site to behold indeed, but the fact remained that even with his intimidating appearance he could not escape entangled and injured by the silver snare.

The two sons slowly approached to finish him off as he let out a deafening howl, hoping his beloved would get the hint and run. Clenching the bloody spear with his one good claw he wrenched with gritted teeth until the shaft shattered into pieces. A fine thread of silver like a spider’s web caught the light of the moon. He looked in horror at the shiny webbed thread as it swung toward him, designed to mimic the spider webs in nature, almost impossible to get off the body if you were unlucky enough to stumble upon it. The black Wolf frantically traced the loosely swinging web with just one long, curved nail to the point of origin… the gaping wound in his shoulder. Slowly the wounded wolf pulled the string from his shoulder, inch by painful inch. Like a clown pulling handkerchief after colorful handkerchief from his breast pocket, a never-ending trick but without the abject amusement and applauds.

After all their time tracking the elusive beast the father drank from his wineskin a smile creasing his wrinkled face, pleased how easily the “Wolf” had been captured. His young son would get the lion’s share of the bounty he decided, after all, without a direct hit, it would have been a whole different story as to what happened. Last time the “God’s Light” set off to find and kill this powerful wolf with the striking green eyes, twenty had set out but only his family had returned.

Glom surveyed the scene he saw that the fence spanned about a hundred yards in all directions disappearing on one side into the woods. From where he stood he could see a gentle hill sloping upward, a simple little hut stood at the top of the hill where his mercenaries patiently waited for their signal to attack. He grew more confident of his impending victory. With his two sons distracting the beast he drew in as deep a breath as he was able for his advanced age and blew on his horn, signaling the mercenaries to begin their attack. With shaking hands that had gotten worse as his unidentified disease progressed, he slid out his silver spear from the hilt on his back and limped to the gate.

The black beast drooled and snarled, smacking away a thrust of the elder boy’s sword, sending him off balance. A paw-like hand swiftly latched onto the elder boy’s forearm, claws digging into soft skin, involuntarily making him wrench around in pain and entangling him in the net in the process. While the beast chewing through the net that immobilized him. All would be lost with the other arm still limp wounded Wolf would not be able to fend off a second attack save for the fact the cowardly youngest son. Gale the youngest son of Glom moments ago made a hit directly on the shoulder of the beast now stood frozen with fear, his eyes wide and glossy.

“Gale!” Glom shrieked at his cowardly youngest son while stumbling across the field to save his eldest son. “Get in there and fight you cowardly son of a whore!”

The clatter and clang could be heard by the beast as Nebuchadnezzar’s small Army filed out one by one, archers drawing their bows, waiting for the order to let the arrows fly. Glom drew another weak breath and signaled the soldiers to light their torches to engulf the arrow tips in flames.

Archers let loose a volley of flaming arrows that sounded like angry hornets and looked like bright comets crossing the sky. One by one, the flaming arrows hit the earth, just one fiery arrow hitting the ground set off a wall of flames 10 feet high.

The archers were blocked off from the scrimmage by the raging fires that quickly spread toward the black Wolf, but they did their job, also blocking off the high hills to which the Wolf might hope to escape. The archers fled from the very same hills but with a long march around and soon they would be able to reinforce Glom again.

She-wolf anxiously whimpered watched helplessly from her lonely shrub. The tar soaked ground ablaze and turned the night sky a hazy hue of red, bringing hell to Earth. Flames, only yards away made the air around her superheated drying her throat and burning her lungs, the smell of her singed fur made her wretch, her stomach turning knots. Mother Wolf’s watering eyes squinted, the inferno distorting the molecules in the air bringing shadows dancing to life. Her precious mate had almost torn free of the net and had Gael the eldest son in his grasp. He had hoisted himself up off the ground and like a child’s rag doll he swung the man around and around by the forearm, heedless of his agonized screams.

After his father’s taunts of cowardice convinced him to aid his older brother, the younger boy thrust his sword but just haphazardly and cautiously, the beast was easily able to fend off advance after advance with his snapping, snarling fangs. The old man Glom, near blinded from the brilliant lights of the fire, finally limped to his sons’ assistance. From decades of experience a well-aimed lunge of his spear pierced the belly of the beast; he ruthlessly twisted and then yanked it out. Glom drew back prepared to strike yet again.

Until now any interaction with humanity for the she-wolf had been scarce, fleeting and harmless. The explicit violence perpetrated by the humans to her beloved made her head spin. Mother Wolf gasped; a yelp involuntarily leaving her muzzle, startling her and disrupting fragile branches that might give away her measly shelter. Desperate, her fur standing on end with her whole body tensed, this time mother wolf had to act or her lover would perish.

About to pass out from blood loss and pain, Gael, and the black wolf grasp heavy fluttering eyes noticed from the bush a form he had not seen previously. The lights from the raging fires made the impenetrable shadows flutter revealing another wolf’s eyes, aglow posed to strike. Much smaller and looked female, Gael summoned his strength, found his bearings; he desperately tried to call a warning to his younger brother that there was a second Wolf to dispatch.

“Gale,” His throat scratchy and dry, ribs pressing in on his lungs, in unbearable pain and struggling to get out just one broken phrase, “there’s another…”

The black Wolf with his fierce green eyes turned toward his beloved, awareness hitting him like a ton of bricks, he could clearly see her form in a background of orange illumination where the shadows were banished. She crouched in an “M” shape, chest in the dirt with her ears set back, slits for eyes, fangs bared to expose her curved white canine teeth.

The beautiful black Wolf knew suddenly what he had to do to keep his mate from harm. The Wolf looked at her with compassionate green eyes, rapidly turning into eyes that commanded attention and loyalty. Eyes that said, “I told you to run, don’t come for me!”

Simultaneously, before Glom could rear back for another strike, before Gale could summon his nerves, before Gael could warn his family of the other wolf’s position and before the she-wolf could creep any closer the black beast grunted, his muscles quivering, hurdled Gael toward his family knocking them down like they were bowling pins, Gael the oversized and awkward ball.

Glom groaned as his back tightened, then snapped, falling on the ground and rolling over on his side. The spear in Glom’s hands flew into the weeds uselessly, like quicksand sinking down to its murky depths. Gale slid on his rump, friction ripping the skin from his hands; he too lost his weapon in the process. Regardless, the two men, Gale and Glom, were at least far enough away to see the beast’s wild thrashing. Gael, however, had been entangled by the torn net when thrown by the beast and kicked furiously, unable to get his ankles free. The black beast managed to free himself of his snares completely and jumped up in the air on his powerful limbs. He fell upon Gael’s helplessly ensnared body, easily pinning him down. Hip cracking like a gun shot, Gael let out a short huff the air forced from his lungs.

The black beast pushed down upon Gael’s body, breaking ribs and suffocating him in the process. The beast transformed in an instant, now back to a form more familiar to that of his beloved. He looked like a normal black Wolf, albeit an enormous thing, his ancestry kin to the dire Wolf. The black Wolf’s had a thick neck, head, curved fangs and muscular back. The only thing to give him away was a limp bloody human arm, a pasty hand dragging uselessly behind him. Illuminating green eyes found and locked on to his beloved’s eyes.

The black beast reacted, but not from instinct, not fear, neither from rage nor the desire for revenge; black beast reacted with cold calculated reasoning; human reasoning. The green-eyed monster sunk his fangs into Gael’s throat. No amount of padded armor could protect him from the wolf’s long fangs and powerful bite. He swung his neck quick to the right, then a swift left with his powerful muzzle and Gael’s skin flipped open like a cheap paperback book, spewing Gael’s lifeblood into the air in a red spray. Gael’s throat crushed, he could not betray the position of the beast’s love.

“No! Nooooo!” Glom shrieked as he groped around for his missing spear.

“Gael… Gael… Gael.” Gale whispered frantically under his breath. He had found his dropped sword and now clutched it to his chest with all his might like a long-lost childhood teddy bear.

Dying gasps and gurgles of his elder son ringing in his ears and his other son distracted and too cowardly to move the father desperately flailed about on the tar soaked grass still futilely searching for his weapon. The elder son’s skin stretched like melted cheese until it snapped from the wolf’s jaws, his long tongue lapping up blood like a water fountain, and soaking his shaggy muzzle. Gael, husband and father of several children including recently a healthy baby boy, “Gull”, struggled for his last breath as the light dimmed in his eyes. His hands scrabbling at the wolf’s sides weakly, than fell still.

“Ooow!!!” the wounded Wolf wailed into the night. His orders for Mother Wolf were clear; “Do not move”. All though she would be visible and exposed in the firelight, any movement would call attention to her position now. She thoughtlessly obeyed his commands and her muscles stiffened.

A roar began to resonate from the wolf’s matted, blood spackled chest, soft and quiet at first, then rumbling louder and louder, clearly a warning for the two remaining men not to follow … then he suddenly scuttled off. One paw dug into the moist, blood-soaked soil while his limp human arm followed uselessly.

“Go after him!” Glom yelled desperately between the frantic whistling of his horn, warning the archers of the wolf’s escape.

The diversion worked, Gael, the one who had spotted his beloved in the bushes now dead and the two remaining men hobbling downhill toward the ever thickening darkness after him, on the hunt again for the wounded Wolf, the pregnant she wolf now safe from harm. As if on cue, billowing thick, grey clouds finally spewed forth their contents. Cold rain began to fall like angel tears, the skies seeming to cry in sorrow from the violence witnessed here. A sprinkle at first, but then a downpour, while it wasn’t enough to quench the raging fires it gave mother wolf a chance for escape if she could make it through the wall of fire and get to higher ground where humans dare not follow. She looked around, her heart pounding, her nose burning from the acidic smoke and saw the muddy puddles forming between the fire and the yelling soldiers.

She lurched forward and rolled in the mud, she rolled from head to swollen belly until it covered her from ears to tail, until she looked like a clay sculpture come to life. She turned her head toward the darkness. She could still smell the soldiers even through the thickening smoke. She then turned her head toward the fire that still raged even through the downpour. Tail between her legs and heavy mud dripping from her entire body, without hesitation, she ran toward the flames.

Mother Wolf’s pads burned and began to crack; although her eyes were wet with tears and shut tight they began to shrivel as she traveled through the inferno. Her lungs began to blister and burn, she had made it into the epicenter of the blaze but now began to suffocate, and the lack of air began to disorient her. Now she didn’t know where the flames started or ended and it threatened to end her life and the life of her unborn litter. The soft mud began to harden as the moisture began evaporating. Her limbs began to stiffen with every move she made. Her swollen belly began to cramp and her chest began to tighten, her ears began to pop, hiss, and snap, the all-encompassing noises of the flames threatened to consume her very soul. A lone raindrop wet her muzzle then another and yet another until a torrent of wet cooling drops quickened her heart. Mother Wolf opened her dried eyes, the moisture returning to them again; she hardened her resolve to get out from the hell she had been trapped in and trudged forward.

The she-wolf finally made it out of the wall of fire, the flames steadily creeping downhill. The mud covering her body had been hardened by the extreme heat, keeping her fragile body safe from the worst of the flames. Looking like a marble statue, no imperfections anywhere except for scorches from the heat. The mud began to crack, softening from the rain which still poured down on her, cooling her as she ran. She ran until the sudden pangs of pain hit her, she knew her pups were coming, and quickly.

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