Of Wolf

Back again with a story post. Another fantasy story this week (about 11000 words). You can probably guess what it’s about by the title, so I’ll just come and out and say it involves werewolves. That’s enough from me. See what you think!

The sky is dark as the hour is late. The only light is that cast by the light of the pristine white moon as it hangs unobstructed in the pinpricked sky.

Another howl, blood curdling and haunting, rings out from every direction at once. The sound only makes Hans Acillon redouble his efforts to try and get as far away from, where he thinks the sound is emanating from, as he can. He doesn’t know if he’s right but as he hasn’t been caught by what sounds like a very large wolf, or perhaps a pack, he is inclined to believe he’s got it right so far.

His heart is thundering in his chest and at a speed he can only describe as rapid fire. The beating of his heart is almost a full gallop within his chest, which he can hear in his ears. The beating threatens to blot out everything, except for the howls. It seems nothing can drown those out as another echoes all around him.

He darts left through a wide opening between a trio of fir trees, which like all the others in this forest tower high up into the cloudless night sky. Hans can’t see the canopy which is loosely laced somewhere far above him. To see it he would have to look up and on any other night he would be inclined to, but not this night. He curses himself again for allowing himself to lose track of time while he’d been in Baracen, the town near his home.

You see Hans’ cabin lies in a long since cleared section of the Plinyen Forest. The very same forest he is currently rushing through desperately hoping that he can get back to the safety of his cabin before whatever that’s chasing him catches up.

He hasn’t seen the thing and for that he is thankful. Just having heard it has been enough torture for him as his leather wrapped feet kick at the loose shifting dirt and fir bristles that make up the floor of the forest. There are no leaves in this forest and were it not dark Hans would see the exposed elevated root that his foot now finds. He trips and is sent stumbling forward. Somehow though, he manages to stay on his feet. He curses at his clumsiness and wishes he had a torch to illuminate his way, but he doesn’t. At least he doesn’t anymore. He did have a torch at first, but lost that when he’d jumped at the sight of the first shadow that had shifted in a manner he could have sworn was alive. It had been a stupid mistake but not one he can do anything about now as he pounds one foot and then the other to continue his sprint.

He has to admit that his legs are tiring now, but he can’t stop. Then another howl rings out. This one sounds closer and that terrifies Hans who dives right to avoid a cluster of tightly knit trunks that were blocking what had been his path.

His head twists left and right as he desperately seeks out a view of whatever it is that is pursuing him. Then the ground caves and Hans feels his balance begin to shift precariously. Hans screams. He knows he shouldn’t but it’s a reflex, an impulse. Though, as he screamed he reached out and found purchase on a thick tree trunk that stops him from going down into the ditch that he didn’t even realise he was on top of until now.

His eyes look at the metre deep trough in the dirt and take a moment to focus. As soon as they have Hans realises that he has been static for too long and so turns and bursts forward once more. His legs resist his demands to flee but don’t go as far as to refuse him, which he is thankful for.

Still, Hans knows that he is slower now. He can feel the pain from the last few stumbles burning in his already struggling legs. He hasn’t got a clue how long he has been running or where he is. It dawns on him that he is lost in the forest, which in turn makes him realise that he is never going to make it back to his safe haven, his cabin. He has to devise a new plan as he twists and turns between the uninformed tree trunks before having to leap over a fallen mass. Hans is sure it’s a tree but realises he could be wrong. He refuses to dwell on the prospect of what else it could be as a shadow shoots past him on his left. His attention turns that way as his eyes try and seek through the pitch black darkness illuminated only by tiny slivers of white moonlight. What he hopes to find he can’t be sure. Though, in truth he’d rather find nothing. He hopes this is some dream, more nightmare, and that anytime soon he will wake up in his simple bed drenched in sweat. This can’t be real, he tells himself as he turns his attention back to what lies ahead of him only to immediately have to sidestep to avoid slamming headfirst into an enormous tree a short distance ahead of him.

Hans breathes a sigh of relief because he has avoided the collision, but can’t dispel the notion that he has no way of knowing if this really is a nightmare or not. He doesn’t want to find out but tries to convince himself that it must be. Then he sees a shape flying toward his head. Hans screams and dives sideways to avoid it. He succeeds, much to his surprise, but clatters with the rough uneven ground. Many of the bristles jab into his skin through the thin cloth that is draped over his body at this time of year.

Hans hates thick restrictive clothing. That is why as soon as the snows start to thaw and spring is here he dons much thinner garb. Many in Baracen think him mad and wonder how he is never ill as a result of his meagre attire. They even ask him as much, but his answer is always the same. It is just what I am used to. He can’t explain it. He knows they would like him to, but he can’t. Everyone is different and so the weather affects each person in a manner that relates solely to them and them alone.

That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that Hans gets back to his feet. He does, but only after a short frustrating scramble during which his feet could not find purchase in the soft loose soil. It makes him wish rain had fallen recently, but whether it would have made a difference he does not know. He would like to think it would for no other reason than to make himself feel better.

He struggles forward once more. He doesn’t know for sure if he is heading forward in a straight line. In fact, he could be heading in concentric circles and he would likely never know. Everything in the forest looks the same at night. He doesn’t know why the lack of the sun makes that much difference, but it does.

Suddenly, the chilling howl blares out again only to be followed by a loud growl. Hans’ eyes go wide but he resists the urge to stop and look in the direction he thinks it is coming from, which is right behind him. He doesn’t know how that’s possible but seeing as it could very well be a very desperate wolf or pack, it shouldn’t shock him. Wolves are faster, though it has been years since any have been seen in Plinyen. That isn’t to say that it is impossible for them to have wandered this far north. But it is a surprise nonetheless.

Hans sidesteps again. Though the sidestep quickly becomes a complete change of direction as Hans realises that the cluster of debris blocking his way now seems more like a wall. He expects it’s a row of shrubs that have been allowed to grow as they wished. However, it is a shock that they are present seeing as little grows under the canopy woven by the firs.

Maybe I’m near the forests edge, he thinks. It’s a hope that isn’t true as the canopy continues far beyond the row of debris blocking him from heading in that direction. Not that Hans knows this or has the time to care as he lumbers forward with all the energy he can muster.

In fact, he is so terrified and oblivious to his surroundings that he doesn’t see a new exposed mesh of roots or the drop on the other side of it. He is too busy frantically searching for whatever is after him and so his foot catches the mesh of raised roots sending him up into the empty air before gravity takes over and pulls him painfully back down to earth.

Hans lands roughly before rolling three times. The first two are head over heels while the last is shoulder over shoulder. And with each roll Hans feels new pain points explode across his body.

When his momentum is finally spent, Hans finds himself on his back, gazing up at the canopy and the narrow beams of light shining through the gaps. It’s a beautiful sight, he thinks, and then realises this isn’t a dream and that he is in real pain. A wave of horror sweeps through him at the realisation and he tries to move. However, all he gets are various surges of agonising pain in response. He curses quietly, hoping that whatever has been chasing him won’t know where he is. Whether he believes that or is just telling himself that to try and ease his fear he can’t say. What he does know is that he needs to move. He isn’t safe here and has to do something. But he can’t. His legs refuse to obey and then he hears a growl that makes him freeze in place and hold his breath.

The sound is right next to him. Or at least that is how it seems as his hands begin to shake ferociously before he feels a catch in his throat that quickly becomes almost unbearable. Still, he refuses to gulp. Doing so would almost certainly seal his fate and he has no intention of that.

Then just as suddenly as the sound appeared it vanishes like smoke on the wind. Hans does nothing though. Instead, he continues to hold his breath and stay motionless until finally he can hold it in no more, so let’s out a long exhale of relief. Hans thinks whatever it was that was after him decided he wasn’t worth killing after all. He doesn’t understand it, but has no intention of questioning it either. So he dares to move, but as soon as he does he hears the growl of the thing and turns his head. Immediately, Hans finds himself face to face with a massive row of giant white teeth.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Hans screams in the moments before the thing throws its wide open maw toward him.

The mouth wraps around the left side of his torso even as Hans tries to struggle away. But it’s too late and the teeth sink deep into his flesh. Hans screams again as he prays and begs for mercy. He doesn’t know why or what he hopes to achieve, but he isn’t thinking now. He just wants to survive. He doesn’t care how as he roars at the pain he can feel filling every fibre of his being.

Thick red blood drips from the wounds the teeth have punctured into his otherwise flawless skin. Then in the moments that follow the jaws pull back tearing a chunk of flesh from Hans’ body.

Hans’ screams again in response to the overwhelming burning pain he can feel along his left flank. His eyes lock on the ravaged section of his body. The previously red crimson that was dripping is now spurting copious volumes of dark almost black blood.

Hans tries but cannot move. He is paralysed and has to watch as the thing comes at him again. It’s fur is blacker than the night sky while its eyes burn a ferocious blue that confuses Hans. He has never seen anything like it. It certainly has the appearance of a wolf, except much, much larger.

Hans finally blacks out from blood loss, knowing that he will soon be dead. He wishes it could be different, but there is no escaping fate.

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