He was tall and broad with a sharp crewcut. As he stepped into the tavern there was a momentary silence: the village of Flick’s Fall was not a large one, and visitors were rare. But he did not seem threatening, he was not masked, and so all returned to their drinks and company.
The man sat down at the bar avoiding eye contact. He ordered a tankard of beer and the barman sat a frothy jug on the table. “Four of silver”.
The man rummaged around in a bag by on his girdle and pulled out several coins, dropping them on the counter. The barman looked at them and held one up, staring at the face on there, and the inscription that read “Kelarun I”. He sneered. “Thusian coin is no good here.” His eyes narrowed “You’re not from around there are you?”
The stranger stared for several seconds, and then shook his head. “No, I’m from Deorl. The coin’s still acceptable down there. I’m sorry, here.” he pulled out some other coins, these with little trees on them and a rougher edge. The barman nodded but said nothing and did not return the coin. The newcomer turned and surveyed the room.
A group of men stood by the fire, laughing, pausing, listening intently to stories. In all of the fraca he might not be noticed if he was careful. He inched over and stood by the fire, listening to their word.
“And then he said ‘that’s not my sheep!’” the farmers all burst out into laughter, and the newcomer joined them as he took a swig. The rude humour of farmers was something he was familiar with from the last time he had passed through this little nation of Botein, breadbasket of the old Thusian empire.
Should he really be here? He couldn’t help it. The newcomer had known lone wolves in his time in the army, but he wasn’t like that. He had to be around people, talk to them, hear them, and be accepted by them.
“Here,” said another farmer “did you hear about the beasts prowling around the southern escarpment?”
“Ain’t been seen in months, Doric.”
“Aye, but they say it was heading eastwards, this way.”
The newcomer coughed “From what I heard it was angling northwards. I though it was slain anyway?”
The farmers looked at him. “Nay, it was but a wild wolf that succumbed to the trap. Where’d ye come from to hear of that in any case?”
“Deorl.” he said “Came up the river Tarn through Eisenhrad. The word in Jungen’s bluff when I walked through was that the beast had fallen, but that was some time ago.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a trapper.” he pointed to the fur on his shoulder “not much about of late though, I just sold some skins in Rouric before I came down here.”
“Rouric? I heard Rouric burnt down a week ago.”
He shrugged “It was a week ago that I was there.”
One of the farmer’s narrowed his eyes “What did you say your name was?”
“Estaron.” he cursed himself. He should be more guarded about these things, but the possibility of them talking to him…
“That’s a Thusian name, isn’t it?”
“Common in Deorl too.”
“Whereabouts over there are you from?”
“Upland regions. Around Kennet.”
“Kennet? That region was damn near razed in the war, I wouldn’t have thought Thusian names would be popular there.”
they’re onto you
“Why do you think I left?”
The farmer made a doubtful grunt but returned to his drink. Estaron looked out onto the room. What to do? Leaving now would be an admission of guilt, but if he stayed they might be onto him. He muttered a little too himself in prayer to the hero Charun, stopping himself halfway through in fear that someone might realise what he was doing.
A warmth at his shoulder, and he turned to see shining blue eyes that bored into his. His collar started to sweat.
“Looking for a little company? Things are slow and I am looking for some entertainment, stranger.” Her chin came to a rest on his shoulder, and he reflexively backed away. But this, this was the out he was looking for. He nodded slightly, and her fingers ran down his arm to his hand, clasping it and drawing him away. He felt the barman’s gaze bore into his back as she led him up some stairs
see her legs beneath the dress milky white flesh that you can almost taste it looks so good see the swing of her hips as she walks good body you will take her you will taste her
and into a small room, rushes on the floor, a candle on a cheap looking chest filling the room with an intimate light
The woman sat down and looked up at him. “So you know, it’s a piece of gold a night.”
He nodded and searched around in his money bag.
“I’ll take Thusian gold too.”
He looked up “I thought it was no good here?”
She shrugged “Boran lost his wife in the last war. Vargr took her.”
He nodded “I understand.”
“Doesn’t matter. I am quite accepting.” her legs opened a little as she sat on the bed, her dress split up to her hip, smooth white flesh of her legs. Her rummaged about in his money bag, pulled out enough coin, handed it to her. She looked at it and bit into it, then looked up at him and smiled. “Would you like some wine first? It may cool your nerves.”
“Yes, thank you.” she turned around and he felt a stinging pain, a sudden headache that was gone as soon as it appeared. No. No, he would not lose control.
She turned back with two goblets and handed one to him. More pain
don’t drink you fool you idiot can’t you see can’t you smell it smell the death
came and went. He would not run, he wanted this needed this. He was sure he could control it.
Then a darkness appeared at the edge of his vision, and he felt a numbness at the back of his head. The room spun and swam, and he saw the room move, and he started to fall. He did not feel his body strike the ground, and he looked on, up at the bed, and the flesh which covered as the girl stood. She smiled.
“Good coin, this.” she said “I need it more than you, I fear.”
And then his vision faded. He had a brief memory of being carried, of the barman and the whore, of a knife, and then nothing.
foolish girlthing idiot whore you do not know what you were doing you were driven by what greed yes greed I can smell it on you that hunger for gold and silver well that will not matter any more I see you standing there with your knife but now that you have drugged the Warden I am unleashed yes and now I burst from my prison the warden’s mind fall around me in a storm and I push forwards I hear your scream and it is delicious and my hand shoots out and grips you by the throat cutting it off and then I take my other claw and plunge it in as you beat at my muzzle and push seeking to fight me off but it will not work my claw rips through your organs and I grip your heart and take it and as you die you see me eat it
a noise at the door it will hold them but not for too long I will take my kill I see the money it could be useful I swallow some coin and I lift the whore and jump out hear the crash and the shatter ad the glass all around falling in a maelstrom as I plunge groundward feel the mud beneath my feet the rain pounding on my head and fur all the better to cover my escape and I run away out out into the wilds where I belong that foolish warden thinking he can escape me thinking he should run amongst a herd like a sheep but he is better I am better
Kelarun, prince of Thusia, steps from the gate of his tower into the dimly lit grey sky overhead. He frowns. The cloud displeases him - not because it is there but because he does not want it to be there, he desires to see the sun and yet here the cloud is in open defiance.
He pulls his robes closer around his neck and adjusts his circlet to sit on his head, feeling more comfortable now, and he descends the stair.
A man stands there. Agearon, his advisor in the Peculiar Arts. The towers loom over them, but the clouds still seem too low, almost threatening.
“Lord Kelarun, the demonstration is ready.” The little man bows. Kelarun shakes out a small pile of snuff and snorts it.
“Continue” he says, relishing in the power of his voice.
In the pit below them, with its spikes around the edge to keep them inside, stand the slaves. Captured soldiers of Thusia’s enemies, from Deneb and Centaurus and Betelgeusia. The three Centaurans form a little phalanx as the others prowl around, occasionally looking up and glowering at Kelarun. One of them swears, while others bow and ask that the prince be pleased by their performance and their new loyalty.
A portcullis at the chamber’s rear opens, and from the shadows steps a man. He is tall with cropped blond hair, an honoured soldier. He is naked and unarmed.
Kelarun looks down at the soldiers. “You men. first to bring me that man’s head will go free with a sack of salt to trade for whatever he desires.”
The soldiers spring upon the man with swords and shields and war clubs, while the Centaurans hang back to watch. They are smarter than most others. Kelarun makes a mental note to conquer Centaurus, for its soldiers would be useful in his legions.
The foreign soldiers fly backwards through the air, two of them landing on the spikes around the pit’s edge, the stone cutting through them and leaving them to hang. They struggle and their mouths move to scream, but no noise is released for their lungs are punctured.
In the pit’s centre stands a wolf of enormous proportions with huge hulking shoulders. It growls and the many wounds it has sustained heal before Kelarun’s eyes. The blood dripping from its muzzle signifies its conquests.
Other soldiers, more cautious now, move up to it swinging axes and clubs, but it is unbelievably fast and it tears throats from bodies. The prince does not notice little spurts of venom coming from the wolf’s fangs as it bites.
More die. The Centaurans are all that is left now, and they challenge it for a time, their small phalanx keeping it back, making it hard for it to cut in easily. But at last the wolf times its strike and catches a spear in its mouth, biting down and crushing it. The phalanx does not take long to fall by then.
The wolf starts to shift backwards, shrinking back into a human form, and Kelarun turns to Agearon.
“Impressive. I would like to see what the creature can do against a full phalanx. Is it under control?”
“Aye sir. It’s food contains drugs that keeps the creature pliant, and-” Kelarun held a hand up. He was watching one soldier, a Betelgeusian barbarian. The body is swelling, black fur standing out on its body.
“Send in the soldiers. Dispatch the dead, and slay that thing-”
The two soldiers that had been stuck on the spikes have pulled themselves free and climb over the lip, snarling as they do so. Kelarun’s honour guard charge in but they cannot stop the creatures and soon fall, torn in half or punctured. More wolves have found their way out now, freely impaling themselves on the spikes in order to climb up more effectively, barking and roaring as they come around the edge, their wounds healing themselves before their very eyes.
Kelarun looks down into the pit and the soldier stands now. Estaron laughs.
and then I was king yes leader of pack if only for a time before being deposed and now the false monarch stands instead the I will take my pack back
Estaron’s eyes burst open and he inhaled, gasping for air, feeling as though he had run from Thusia to Marathon. A cold sweat covered his body, but it swiftly became a hot one, and the blinding yellow light before him resolved itself into leafy boughs, standing above him like accusing sentinels. He looked down and saw he was naked, and that his belly was slightly distended as though he had just eaten a large meal. He sat in a wooded clearing, and by his side was a mound of fresh earth. He looked at his hands and saw mud caked under his fingernails, and blood covering his hands up to the elbow, the metallic stench rolling over him in a wave of nausea.
He rolled over and saw a stream in the glade’s corner, and crawling over to this he looked into its waters, and saw the mud and blood around his mouth. He jumped bodily into the brook and scrubbed at his body, clawing at the dried blood until he was red raw. He climbed out and looked back, seeing his reflection. Self disgust washed over him. He had lost control, he had killed again. With a swipe he struck the reflection, but when it resolved a wolf stared back at him, yellow eyes accusing.
He leapt backwards, frothing the water, tripping over the bank, gasping as he ran.
Straight into a man with a beard. He fell backwards. The man’s eyes narrowed. “What’re you doing out here all bare like that?”
He had to think fast. “Robbers! They-they took my things and they-” he looked over at the mound “k-killed my wife.”
The man looked very sad. He put out a hand and helped Estaron to his feet, and walked through the forest for a little way until they came to another glade with a stone building in the centre. It was a chapel, and a truly beautiful one, with purple stained glass shining in from the end of one tower.
“A-are you a priest?”.
“Aye boy, that I am. Come, I have a spare cassock that should fit you.”
don’t go can’t you smell it he could
The chapel was tiny, with a bed and kitchen in the basement below the knave dedicated to Chelarun, a broad empty space in common with the old Thusian traditions.
“We don’t see many new folk in these parts any more.” the priest said as he pulled his own cassock over his head “Not many believe in the old ways of Thusia any more. They think us heretical, as though we were responsible for the Vargr plague. Where were you headed in any case?”
“Flick’s fall” he said without thinking.
“Oh? You were well off course then.”
“Aye.” the priest’s eyes were narrow again.
“O-our guide. He was… untrustworthy, I-”
“Never you worry lad. Nothing to be afeared with.”
There came the sound of boots upstairs. The priest stood and sniffed.
“Come, brother. We must meet these pilgrims.” he smiled.
Estaron came up to the knave and froze as the farmers turned and Boran’s eyes bored into him. The publican growled. “There he is!”
The priest stepped between them. “This man has claimed asylum from the church, he-”
“He killed my daughter!” The barman roared and flung the priest aside. He wielded a spiked club and came closer.
“And The Gorgonites Did Assault The Temple Men Under Thusia’s Protection.” the voice was different, a strange growling, strangled noise as the priest stood, his eyes glowing yellow. “And Thusia Was Most Displeased, And Sent Plagues to Strike Down Those That Did Offend Him.” the cassock grew taut and burst, revealing furred, scarred flesh, and a growling figure roared, it’s voice barely human now, the muzzle only just able to form words “And The Gorgonites Begged For A Death That Thusia Was Only Too Happy To Grant.”
He smelt something in the air, a seducing scent that drew him forwards as the farmers turned on the priest-wolf. He felt the pain surge and he fell to one knee, and he saw the barman raise his club to brain him, and then he saw his hand shoot out covered in wolf-fur and it gripped the club and twisted it and bent it and the wood cracked and splintered and yes yes foolish man you think to fight me you will die die die
look at you sniveling sometimes it takes a real being to sort things out I will show you how it is done I will show them I tear free and break loose and I can see now see them all cowering the other has blocked the exit and soon our kills will begin blood and flesh and organs everywhere and we feast the other growls at me and tries to assert dominance but I won’t let it I bark and growl back and give it a bite behind the ear to let it know let it see where we stand and it backs away and waits until I am sated on the human flesh and then it walks outside into the darkening sky and I follow it has been so long since I have been with pack since I have enjoyed the satisfaction of domination the prison-keeper has kept me from this and I hate him for it and I approach and leave the elaborate cave and then I smell it a waft as the wind changes and my hair pricks up and my tail is high and I look around and growl as the others come out from the darkness some of them are wolves some are men but they have the scent of Vargr on them just like the priest did and I bark and thrash and growl but there are so many oh so many and I fall and I feel them crawling over me and wait for death to come but then I smell sacking and must and it is hard to breathe and my limbs are bound and I am lifted and moved and I drift dreaming somewhere between wakefulness and sleep always shrouded in darkness never knowing what is before me or what is around me always moving always falling.
Harsh light again, white this time instead of yellow, and stone lay beneath him.
Estaron sat up and took a brief inventory of his surroundings. Flagstones, stone walls, clearly a prison. But it was not a prison in a good state of repair, one corner had broken and tumbled in slightly, light filtering from a tiny hole above. In another corner a bucket of water sat. He felt very thirsty, and he tried to stand. A wave of dizziness and nausea dropped him to his knees, and in the end he crawled to the bucket and took a handful. He drank the brackish water - it was better than nothing, indeed in his parched state it tasted truly fine. The distrubed water moved about again, and once more he saw the wolf’s face in the bototm. He stood, breaking out into a cold sweat, but he did not run.
“Where have you taken me?”
The wolf growled We have been captured I warned you about the priest that he was pack but you did not listen and now see where we are
“You have not struck me as incredibly trustworthy in the past.”
What have I ever done that deserves this treatment that you push me down always into your deeper parts of your mind and refuse to let me out to feel the wind and the air?
“I keep you in for a reason.” He leant close to the reflection, staring into the wolf’s face. He was not afraid any more. “That girl. You killed her.”
She was going to kill you I saved you from her that wine was drugged why do you think you went down she was going to take your money and clothes and slit your throat and dump you in a ditch did you not smell death upon her? No no of course you didn’t you foolish blind-nose.
“She would have…”
Yes kill or be killed and we have important work to do here we must take back our pack take back Thusia from the arrogant fool kick his Centaurans out from under him.
“Why? Whether it’s you or him in charge it will still be a blight on the world.”
We would rule not just I but we I am proposing an alliance one of desperation I will grant an amnesty for your years of imprisonment if you help me do as I need we will rule this pack better.
Take a look. the wolf head angled towards the tumbled down rocks.
He stood and walked over to the little hole and moved a few larger stones, poking his head out thorugh the hole.
It was raining a light drizzle. Wolves were chasing a woman through the streets. When they caught her they began to rape her. Lying all around were other dead, man and wolf and Vargr alike, thin and starved with distended bellies, flies filling the air, the stench of death even clear to a ‘blind-nose’ such as himself.
He ducked back down and went back to the bucket. The wolf stared back.
We must take back our pack and manage it not eat the humans but use them to bring us food they will be the underclass that they should be and we will protect them listen to me Estaron do as I ask the wolf’s eyes were pleading.
“What must we do?”
The prince waits. His body has settled between fully wolfish and fully human, one that allows him to speak but bears a certain aesthetic he desires. He sits in the shadow of the now deserted Thusian towers, some of them crumbling, blood streaks still falling from some windows. A set of pikes sits around him with human and wolfish heads, those he found disagreeable. It had to be done, he must maintain his ambience as a terrifying ruler.
The traitor is brought out, that grinning soldier whose memory had remained in him for so long. The seed point, if you will. The source of this… blessing. The fully wolfish creature stands in the pit, it is huge and scarred, much larger than any of its successors.
“You are a difficult man to find.”
The wolf nods. It cannot speak with a muzzle.
“Many have said that as the originator you should lead my pack.”
The wolf turns and sprays a gout of urine up towards him. It does not reach the prince, but the point is clear.
The prince stands and smiles. He shifts into his fully wolfish form and leaps down, lips curling back into a growl. He is smaller but that does not matter, not against this thrall.
The thrall leaps forwards, claws outstretched, and the prince dodges easily, spinning around and bringing his jaws up, scraping the thrall’s flank. The prince feels blood against his teeth. The first blood.
The thraal turns around, backs away a little, still growling, and then lunges again. The prince meets him head on, both up on their hind legs, biting at each other’s faces. The thrall gets a blow below the prince’s eye, the prince cuts deep into the bottom of the thrall’s muzzle.
The thrall growls still as the prince cries bloody tears. The prince is angry now. He will be left with a scar, one that will carry over to his other forms, and that is unacceptable. He lunges again, closing his left eye against the blood.
The thrall ducks and bites the prince’s left foreleg, and then retreats to one corner. The prince lies on the ground, feeling the blood drain out and then feeling the skin knit together. The thrall’s body is healing itself too, but the prince does not care, it will not last much longer. Once it is dead it will spend a time in purgatory and then return to life knowing its place.
The thrall is sticking a hand down its throat, gagging and choking and finally vomiting. Pup behaviour. It is scared, it must be, that is the only explanation. The prince draws closer, still growling, the leg working now. The prince draws close.
The thrall darts out and cuts a small wound. The prince sees this as foolish, that its neck is still open, and Kelarun dives down, ready to drive his fangs in.
But then he sees the thrall’s hand, it has shifted back to almost resemble a human. And then he sees what it is holding.
Two Thusian coins, made of silver.
The thrall’s hand thrusts in, pushing the coins into Kelarun’s throat. The prince staggers back, uncertain of what is happening, feeling coldness running through his body, like the wave of pain from a bee sting. He collapses onto his back, choking, coughing, and then his eyes close. A foolish trick. He will teach that wolf a lesson when he returns from-
I look on my dead foe and yes he is dying now. I stand up straight and feel the two minds commingle and form my new identity and my body shrinks but retains its fur and my muzzle is shorter but remains a stub and a run my long clawed fingers through tousled blond hair and I leap out of the pit and turn and look on my people.
“Release the humans. They are to farm the land and to raise cattle animals for us to devour. From this moment on any that kill or harm a human is to answer to me. We will eat the fruits of the tree and not the tree itself.”
And the humans go free and many wolves growl at me but they do not challenge me for they see my strength now.
A dim part of me wonders if this is the best thing if this is truly good for the humans shall stay as slaves. But it is better than it was and if I can make this world better when I leave than when I came it will be for the best.
Sam Beaven is a Writer. He is also a 21 year old Archaeology/Digital media student from Worcester, but he’s more a writer than anything else. His official website is here