Viddarr's Guardian wolves
The baying of wolves called for help to any lycanthrope within earshot. Curiosity got the best of him and he was drawn to the graveyard. Glowing eyes appeared and vanished by the gravestones. The smell of rotting flesh over powered his preternatural senses. Then the glimmer of glowing eyes and a glimpse of silver fur caught Devon’s attention as something dashed for cover under an ash tree. He sniffed the air trying to pick up anything beyond the smell of an unburied corpse but despite some shape that followed him he could not pick up anything human or animal.
Hair stood up on the back of his neck as he twirled around just quick enough to see a huge silver furred figure run a half mile down the hill to the mausoleum then melt and disappear into the door of the dilapidated crypt. Nervous apprehension triggered an involuntary transformation, slowly the fur rippled up and over his flesh. The searing heat of his blood made him double over as he swiftly contorted and fell upon four paws.
A warning howl emanated from everywhere. One by one, from behind each gravestone they stepped into view. Thirty or forty transparent wolves with eyes like red lava crept closer to him. Devon, now a wolf, spun around with his tail tucked between his legs as he rolled over in submission.
No warning, no scent, the wolves materialized just inches away from him and he surrendered... his body tensed as they slowly and strategically circled and enclosed around him. They yelped and howled back and forth amongst each other in a system of speech he couldn’t comprehend. Then ten of them broke off from the pack, he could see the ash trees and tombstones, transparent ghost wolves, smaller in stature as they ran down toward the mausoleum, presumably to lead the way for him. The bigger wolves turned back around and stayed behind and stood guard on the interloper.
Devon’s tail stiffened as he yelped out a signal as if to communicate, “I am a friend.” Why were the ghost wolves here? Why so many? And where was the over overwhelming stench coming from? The wards at his front slowly approached then took position alongside their other ghostly pack mates. They turned and slowly took position alongside one another in a straight line simultaneously. Slowly, like a funeral procession, they marched one by one together down the hill. The two wolves making up the rear stopped and glanced back as if to urge him to follow them.
They were all, one by one, walking through the wall and into the old crypt. Devon stopped before the entrance and swiftly morphed back to a man. If he were to go inside he was going to need his hands to open the door. He couldn’t quite go through the wall like the ghost wolves had.
At the crypt doors the unmistakable and overpowering stench of death caused convulsions in his stomach. The smell originated just beyond the metal doors of the crypt. The brass doors, of course, were locked but the bolts gave way to his superior strength. With a groan then a snap the doors swung open, creaking on unused hinges.
He wasn’t prepared for the sight before him; he stood horrified yet unable to pull his eyes away. Six feet away from him he spotted a decayed corpse as bile pooled up from his stomach to his esophagus he tried his best to choke down the vomit. Ten transparent wolves stood still as statues packed one on top of the other in the painfully small crypt. Devon figured the huge transparent silver wolf with red eyes, withers, and royal mane protected the once extremely powerful decaying lycanthrope. A brilliant flash made his hands instinctively cover his watering eyes. He squinted at the dazzling light beams as the smaller ghost wolves vanished. Once the smaller wolves were gone the huge dazzling silver wolf stood up and circled around then jumped at the decaying corpse. Now that the ghost wolves had disappeared the smell of decay grew into something stronger, a strange aroma, unlike normal decay. Devon peering as closely as his nerves allowed him found the body’s thick decay only superficial, the organs within, except the heart, fossilized. Every so often he heard the heart. Though impaled the heart quivered and seemed to make a faint beat every so often.
The corpse was skewered by a spear from buttocks to collarbone. The corpse’s arm and leg stumps swayed though no wind could be felt, like a morbid marionette. His body suspended by the makeshift spear supported by the crypt wall and the marble floor. A large granite statue with a sword held in the hands of the statue of The Arc Angel, Michael, had fallen impaling him through the heart.
Devon studied the rotten corpse for several minutes in stunned horror, who did this to him? The form, once a man, too much for him to bear, his skin had drawn back tight to the bones and rats made a meal of his face, his eyes were missing, spider webs replacing them in the sockets. His arms and legs had been amputated. Sawed off the bone missing and his legs were charred, the flesh on them almost black and flaking off.
His arms and legs were missing from just below the elbows and the knees. The skin jagged edges and stumps of bone were exposed at the ends. The corpse’s head tilted up so that his missing eyes sockets looked permanently up at the ceiling. Its face twisted in a mask of rage and pain made all the more pronounced by its state of strange decay. He could see sparse hairs that had not fallen off yet, long wavy brown hairs on its head. Its mouth was open as if it were still screaming, now some silent scream only heard by the dead.
A powerful old lycanthrope, which is why the wolves led him to the corpse, Devon realized. Somewhere deep in his soul a primal instinct told him this man was an acquaintance, say a fellow lycanthrope, bound by blood, the poor tortured brother.
He had to remove him from his place of demise and place him on a pyre and burn him until ash, as decreed in werewolf custom. His heart ached for an obviously majestic pack mate. Slowly and with great care he pushed back the statue until up-right, freeing the corpse from its place of impalement, the body stiff and frozen in its position. He then gently removed the pole from the ground and the body fell to the dirt. He used the pole at either end of his body to carry him out the crypt doors to the forest nearby.
At the top of the hill he saw the ghost wolves again watching with silent approval. The largest of them threw back its head and let out a solemn dirge of mourning, the others leant their heads and voices to the sky in a beautiful melody of song that stirred his heart. The wolves’ howls were telling the passionate tale of a great werewolf’s life.
He walked for hours into the darkening forest with the canopy of trees so thick no light could pierce the veil and the earth beneath him turned to dirt. No grass could grow beneath the thick cluster of trees. His arms ached from the weight of the corpse but he pressed on until he came to a place with a clearing wide enough between the trees to dig an improvised funeral pyre/grave. He slowly laid the man down on the soft earth and turned to the task at hand. His fingers becoming claws, he instantly began to dig. He had dug a two foot deep hole into the ground when he stopped to catch his breath.
A rustling in the trees turned his body around reflexively to investigate. He knew he was the only person in the murky darkness. His eyes widened, slowly beginning to glow as they refracted the dim lights around him, as he become more lupine in appearance, his ears perking up, scanning the area.
He crouched low and slowly glanced from side to side scanning the area like a spotlight. There was a rustling in the leaves again, and deep gasping breaths coming from close behind him near the corpse. He could hear the faint rhythmic beat, a drum beat? He spun around quickly, nearly slipping in the loose dirt beneath his feet, trying to focus in on the rustling, beating, and breathing.
A chill ran through his spine as he registered in his mind what his eyes briefly caught. The stubs that used to be arms moved ever so slightly stirring beneath the corpse. Then suddenly a harsh raspy gasp for air again, the corpse was trying to breathe with its deteriorated lungs… Devon felt weak on the verge of collapse, surely his senses deceived him, even as long lived as he was he couldn’t fathom what was unfolding before his eyes. He had seen Blood brothers that should have died from injuries that would’ve killed an ordinary human or even recently dead Brothers springing back to life to heal their grievous injuries if the full Moon had not yet thoroughly cycled through. Never from such extreme state of disrepair that this poor soul was in! Maggots squirmed from the corpse’s skull-like face, falling down to the ground as the corpse gasped for breath yet again.
The corpse seemed to come alive, its chest rattling up and down in such small minute motions that it was almost unnoticeable. Its legs twitched then a twitched again, then a violent jerk that lifted what remained of his legs up off the ground and down again. Its head snapped back with a pop the mouth widened and it took in its deepest breath yet, a breath that sounded more like a snarling growl.
Devon could’ve run at that moment but he was captivated. Thoughts were racing a mile a minute through his head; the repercussions of the corpse’s sudden motions were staggering. He found himself re-thinking even life and death itself as a werewolf. Devon was startled when without warning the thing convulsed, wildly jerking side to side then turning around on its back. Now it could see the treetops if not for its missing eyes.
Writhing about on the ground a sickening chorus of pops and snaps came out from its decayed stricken shell. Foam bubbling up from its open mouth as a blackish mixture of bodily fluids began oozing from open wounds. Devon could see the corpse’s heart beating through a gaping hole from the granite sword that used to be in its body.
Wriggling new hair grew like snakes from its scalp. His arm stubs dug firmly into the ground as if it wanted to try and sit up. The living dead corpse’s head turning in a jerking mechanical twist. Pus like mixtures of fluid spilled down, the movement of its neck disturbing the brass spear impaling its torso.
A network of atrophied veins, arteries, and nerves inflated and crisscrossed in its eye sockets. Wires that slithered wildly around until they immerged themselves in a stagnate pool of fluid in the sinus cavities. Sparks made the pooled blood bubble up. Globules in its hollows expanded, congealed and solidified until translucent orbs resembling primitive eyeballs appeared. The living dead’s now opaque eyes blazed with crimson brilliance then fixed on Devon.
“He’s staring at me,” Devon thought shuddering. “I know it’s crazy but he is staring right through me.”
It tried to usher forth words from a mouth that had but just a stub of a dried and atrophied tongue. The rats had eaten part of his voice box. The sound that it issued forth almost incomprehensible but Devon perceived and interpreted what he thought the living corpse had tried to say.
“PAIN!” Drool poured down its chin.
Devon left the corpse-thing that was wriggling about on the ground and ran. What was he to do? Surely this thing was beyond repair wasn’t it? Put it out of its misery? But how? Or try to help it? What could he do? The only logical thing came to him suddenly; he made a mad dash for the graveyard. He glanced around hurriedly from gravestone to gravestone until he found a flower pot big enough to suit his needs.
He easily broke the flower pot from its base at the slab of the gravestone careful not to damage the integrity of the interior so as to not hold water. Devon then ran to the only running fountain in the graveyard. He dunked the bowl the best he could into the shallow fountain. It was still questionable as to whether or not this would do any good but with water in hand he rushed back to the living corpse.
He stopped short of the man-thing to take in all that he saw. The color had returned to the bulk of his body, the color of a normal human’s hue. Although he was still pale as a ghost it wasn’t a sickly black and gray color anymore. Its skin and the sunken black of its eyes sockets and cheekbones were nowhere near as pronounced. Newly formed eyes were bloodshot with a golden brown color in them. The convulsions had ceased but he still lay on his back.
The rigor mortis working itself out, the blue black bruises faded away to a pinkish hue, the little bit of blood that the lycanthrope had left circulating itself around. The corpse thing’s breath was shallow and labored. Breathing seemed better now, not the liquidity, gurgled, wheezing Devon heard before. Since the unholy resurrection unfolded, Devon was so enamored by the process of it all, he realized he hadn’t heard a scurry or peep from any animal or birds which were surely frozen by the preternatural spectacle, the only sound coming from a light breeze blowing through the trees making a spectral like moan. He could see the thing’s heart slowly beating in the massive hole in his chest.
Devon looked on in amazement as the skin and muscle stretched in an attempt to close up this gaping wound, skin and muscle struggling to adhere to torn ligaments and veins that reminded Devon of the ocean tide ebbing and flowing. Wave after wave of skin covered up the gaping hole then receded. The breastbone reminded him of a stalactite growing in almost a blinding fast forward motion until Devon could not see the heart anymore just new white bone. That’s when Devon realized what he had done. He had taken out the granite sword that had impaled him through his heart.
Somewhere in the distance Devon heard one brave bird still rummaging for grubs. All five senses merged together as one coherent radar-like sense. Nerves, muscles and tendons fired in unison zeroing in on the hungry red Cardinal. He moved in a blur of well-honed hunter instinct he leaped several yards from the undead thing to the feeding Cardinal. The makeshift clay bowl of water still in his hand, he snatched the young bird up before it knew what was happening. With a twist and a snap of his now fanged teeth he beheaded the bird before a chirp came out of its beak. He squeezed the animal like a wet towel; warm salty droplets of blood filled the clay bowl. He needed something more than water, Devon thought, but the thing was not strong enough to devour flesh yet.
He came back to the undead-thing with bloody water in hand. He discarded the now lifeless Cardinal on the ground. The man-thing’s wounds and mangled body seemed too weak, too sluggish, but the rotted flesh seemed to be shedding like a snake’s skin, flaking off all over. The wounds were all wet with a fresh blood supply pumping to them but they began to clot quickly staunching the excessive bleeding.
Devon was spellbound because in all his long-lived years he’d seen a lot of strange things but this took the cake. Devon gently lifted the man thing’s head, he found no resistance. Devon offered the blood mixture up to the corpse thing’s parched lips which it accepted, greedily gulping down the liquid as the excess ran out the corners of its mouth.
It’s glossy and empty, opaque dead eyes immediately seemed to liven up, a spark of life inside them; they dilated and began to glow. The manthing finished off the blood water mixture in the pot, lapping at the last drops with its tongue and then muttered in an almost incoherent growl.
Devon obliged, sprinting up the hill again to obtain more water from the fountain and hunting small game until he came back with more.
The man thing was up on his knees the best he could with the spear like object that still skewered him. The object dug a line in the dirt wobbling back and forth his stumps for legs no help keeping his balance. Again Devon offered him the mixture of blood and water and Devon helped him consume it all.
Suddenly the man-thing groans, a noise that sends shivers through Devon’s spine. Pain seemed to double it over and even Devon’s aid wasn’t enough to keep the man thing up right as it fell down on his side. The zombie thing’s head lurched back, it jerked its jaws back and forth as a mouth full of lupine teeth emerged and let loose a howl that startled birds from miles away leaving their nests as they flew away for safety.
The stubs from the thing’s arms grew bone at an accelerated rate, the ulna and radius looking like sharp twin daggers lengthening and broadening. Milky white cartilage bubbled up to support the new carpals from the milky solution like tiny islands cropping up in a tumultuous sea of superglue until growing to form the bones of his wrist. Ligaments began to form, then meta-carpals more ligaments then phalanges forming, the thing now as rudimentary as skeletal hands.
Devon stood absolutely still, wide-eyed at the unbelievable process taking place. A red rough sheath began to envelop the new skeletal hand then snakelike nerves ran through them like a downed live wire. Then the red sheath like substance began to inflate like a balloon as slowly twitching muscle began to form and snake across the forearms. Cord-like soft tissue, tendons, began to attach to the skeletal hands.
The animated corpse moved its forearms and flexed its skinless hands like a new born baby in awe, just figuring out what he could do with them. Then it groaned and patted his newly formed hands on his head then he clenched the spear that had him impaled. Muscles quivering from the strain and oblivious to pain the spear began to lift up from his head putrid gray brain matter oozing down. It moved the spear out from his head until outstretched arms allowed no more movement. It re-positioned its hands when it was unable to move it more and tried a second time until the spear lifted up from its body. The thing threw the spear down with a thump as it landed on the ground. Woozy with the effort he fell on his back his stump legs seemed to be re-constructing too now at such a dizzying rate Devon’s eyes couldn’t keep up. Connective tissue circling and forming around the new bones like snakes winding around the limbs of a tree, then muscle tissue, nerves and skin continued to grow in consecutive order trying to keep up with the new skeletal frame. In a matter of minutes the corpse thing was almost complete down to the thing’s fingertips and long ivory claws.
The thing lifted its stiff neck. Turning around, the thing’s eyes once as wrinkled as raisins were now plump as grapes, and took on an animallike quality. They gazed upon Devon who cowered uncontrollably at its visage. The man thing’s skin was thin and taunt as if touched it would crumble to pieces. The man thing’s mouth opened but now Devon knew what to do. He was back in moments with fresh water and blood mixture again this time new hands gripped the bowl and immediately drank from it unassisted.
The ears began to grow where there were once stubs before and slowly twitched and lengthened. The veins in its forehead began to throb once dry cracked taunt skin became fatter, fleshier; the skin’s sickly gray color developed a healthier glow. The scent, once of decay, now a different smell altogether that of a wild wet dog. This smell grew as thicker, darker, brown-black hair began to grow from his scalp. Devon could place his face now. It was an East Slavic born, turned Viking chief: Viddarr. He recalled the fight where Viddarr had mercifully spared Devon’s life so many moons ago because even as they fought for different clans they were blood brothers… both lycanthropes.
“Thank you,” he said hoarsely first in his native tongue then English, his mouth still dry from dehydration, the little water that he had drunk hydrating his entire body. “I owe you my life.”
Slowly and apparently painfully the bones of his face contorted while cheeks rose in an unnatural manner the nose and jaw jutting forth into a hairless small muzzle. His face was turning into a twisted version of man and wolf. Fangs protruded from Viddarr’s mouth as he hungrily devoured bones in all the corpses of the nearby drained birds, squirrels and rats that Devon had discarded onto the ground.
The process seemed to slowly drift down from his face like a wave through his body, his neck thickening, shoulders widening, and coarse fur rippling over leathery flesh. His chest heaving and expanding, all the while the wound in his sternum, the new chest plate that held his beating heart, bubbled with fluids that contorted, conformed and closed, in response to Viddarr’s new shape. Viddarr’s Wolf thing seemed completely healed as the wolf that used to be Viddarr shook off the pain and threw its head back in a cry of victory.
Viddarr’s wolf a beautiful dark brown color with a crest that appeared mane-like, his wide reddish brown eyes were fierce and his long lupine ears set far back. He had a short muzzle and a short tail but every bulging muscle built for speed and power. Devon was impressed by this being, more so impressed when the Wolf cocked his neck back and dug its muzzle into the backside of Devon’s palm, a sign of respect. Devon stroked the wolf’s soft fur for a moment until the Wolf collapsed with exhaustion.