Chapter 12: The Hunter of Wolves
Table of Contents|
Chapter 11 appeared
in issue 133.
Alysses “The Falcon” Slighthand listened for the unnatural howl to cut the night again. He opened his tent flap and inspected his men. Brown tents littered the grasslands for half a mile. Fires dotted the hills like will-o-the-wisps in the night. Men in red, sleeveless vests turned to him, watching his gaze as he searched beyond the camp with hard, cold eyes. The source was still miles away, but it was drawing closer. The werewolf was out there, somewhere, hiding and running in the darkness, more than likely already circling his camp, filling its lungs with the scent of man.
The men in Alysses’ encampment would draw it like a corpse drew a murder of ravens. It was inevitable that the beast would be drawn to the fires’ warmth. Fire meant life. Life meant meat. Meat meant food. It was that simple.
Pulling the flap of his tent down, he turned to stare at the beautiful woman in his bed. Her red auburn curls contrasted sharply with the shadows thrown around by the small lamp in the corner. Her soft and pale skin matched the fine, silken sheets she had her body wrapped in. Her full lips formed into a pout as she noticed the sneer on Alysses’ face.
The werewolf was out there getting closer. It would not be sated unless the thing shed blood. Alysses “The Falcon” Slighthand had dealt with werewolves before. Mor’Sham was filled with them. Every Nation had its share of god-forsaken beasts to deal with, but to Alysses, it always seemed like werewolves called Mor’Sham home. He could order his men to destroy the thing, but he would lose many of them to the fight. He could not afford it. Not with the final part of his assignment coming to an end so soon.
He stared down at the lady in his bed. The girl might prove to be his solution to the fast-approaching problem. He contemplated giving her over to the beast.
“If you ever get into my bed uninvited, again,” he sneered. “I will leave you to the beasts.” He paused. The howl had not come again, yet. “One comes now. Maybe I should hand you over to it.”
He was mildly surprised when he saw a flash of fear cross her beautiful face. It was enough to make him change his mind. He had decided to give her over. He guessed not. He would let her know just how close she had come to dying this night, though.
“Are we understood, Miss Jerelyn?” When she nodded without saying a word, he felt a wave of satisfaction come over him. It wasn’t everyday that a woman like Jerelyn Mendever was cowed.
“Now get dressed and out of my tent,” he snapped. Satisfied that she would comply with his demands, he turned back to the opening of his tent. He needed to think of what to do. How many men would it take to bring it down? It would all depend on how big it was, he knew. He could not afford to lose too many soldiers.
Tomorrow, his soldiers would meet Andina Lerouse. They would meet her and her small procession of troops, with the coming morning. His orders were simple. He was to take the Seer and kill her. Everyone else needed to die, no questions asked.
Alysses had never met Andina, but neither did he care. She was a Seer, and from pieces of information gathered, a Seer of no small power. The consequences of killing a Seer did not concern Alysses. Powerful people wanted her dead, and they had paid. With the money delivered to him, Andina was as good as. She would bring with her a wizard, an armed group, and herself. He was prepared for all of them.
His own men were well-armed and seasoned fighters. He had his two women to deal with the Seer should she prove more troublesome than it was worth. Alysses was there to deal with her wizard. He had been warned to fear Renson’s power. Alysses didn’t care what power the man had. He would take care of the wizard when the time came.
His men were brought together from all over the Nations because of their fighting prowess. These men who belonged to him now, were men of no small repute. Most of them were assassins and thieves of no minor skill. Many of these men were murderers with only one code of honor to live by.
The code of honor and money.
Alysses Slighthand owned these men because he had the money to own them. He had the financial backing of powerful lords and masters who were desperate to see Andina Lerouse dead. He had used their perverted desire to strip them of much of their coin and treasure. With that same money he had gone and formed his regiment of warriors. With their honor bound and paid for, they would not stop until Andina Lerouse was dead.
As much as he hated to, he would have to fight and kill the beast. His men would do it and without question, but he wished for an alternative. Maybe he could form a plan. He should think of something soon. The werewolf would be bloodthirsty. It would be difficult for the beast to think of anything else. Such blind hunger could be used to his advantage.
Miss Jerelyn Mendever, fully dressed in dark burgundy pants and a brown shirt, came to stand next to him. She had long legs and full breasts. She was a little taller than he, just the way he liked his women. He was slightly disappointed to see that trace of fear from a moment before gone from her green eyes.
He ignored the gentle hand she placed on his shoulder.
“I heard the beast,” she said in a silky voice. “It’s obvious you aren’t going to feed me to the thing.”
“Are you so sure?” he taunted.
She ignored his implied threat. “So what do you plan to do?”
“I plan to kill it,” he stated plainly. “I have dealt with these things before. They are tough and it usually takes several men to kill one. But I think we are fortunate this night.”
He walked over to his bedside, leaving the woman standing by herself at the entrance, and pulled out a foldable chair and sat himself down. The tent was big enough for three people. His bed lay on one side and a pole stood in the center to hold the whole thing up. A lamp sat in a corner, its flame bright enough for someone to write by its side.
She watched him for a moment with cool eyes. “How many of these creatures have you dealt with? You surprise me at times. Most people would be cowering right now, if not panicking.”
“I grew up in Mor’Sham, Jerelyn,” he explained. “I saw two younger brothers ripped limb for limb by one of those things. I was a young boy at the time and my mother had always warned us of going out at night. I remember that night as if it happened yesterday. That night, as my brothers’ screams echoed off the walls of the dirty city, their dying cries shook my soul. They shook me so hard I can honestly admit that I have never fully recovered.”
Anger registered on Alysses’ face as he thought of that night. The emptiness of the city, even though it had been one of the largest cities in Mor’Sham, had been profound.
“I’m afraid it was too late for them. The watch got there way too late. Almost conveniently late, you might say. Nobody came out that night. No man had the courage to try and save the boys. Everyone stayed out of sight and within the confines of their homes. Even as my brothers screamed, I decided that night not to ever cower again, from anything.
“After that night, I turned to the art of killing. I didn’t have any swords or blades or long, sharp knives, so I used my mother’s kitchen tools. I wonder at times what she would say if I told her now that she used to cook with the same grisly utensils I practiced my killing with. I started destroying pets at first. Neighbors would wonder how their precious little animals were killed. My killing was precise from the beginning, you see. And those who could tell what had happened, they could only wonder at what horrid creature would do such a thing.
“I used to kill during the day. It was too dangerous to go out at night. I was no skilled warrior. The cries of my little brothers haunted my every step. So I used to run the risk of getting caught by doing my deeds while the sun was up. It never mattered, really. There was never anyone around.
“My goal then was to familiarize myself with death. How better way to do that, than to bring it to other living creatures? After killing off all my neighbors’ animals, I turned to hunting. I would catch rats and mice that frequent the streets of the cities of Mor’Sham. Then, when this got boring and it was easily done, I hunted birds.”
He tried to gauge Jerelyn’s reactions as he recounted the events from his life. There was no shock value registered on her face. He was mildly disappointed.
“As I grew older, I realized that death came easily. I found that most of my victims greeted the dark embrace of eternal sleep willingly. Maybe it was the dark nature of our world that drove them to that end. Even free spirited animals gave way quickly to my torture. I never did much to them, in the first place, but, nevertheless.”
His voice held no emotion, and he felt none. He watched Miss Jerelyn stare back at him impassively. The woman was cold and strong, despite her stunning looks and soft voice. He wondered about her atrocities. He knew she had her own tales to tell. Every one in his little army had them.
He continued, “It was as I grew into a man that I decided to kill men and women. I had grown cold and numb and I decided that death no longer thrilled me. I was still haunted by my little brothers’ cries. I could still remember seeing the beast, the werewolf that destroyed them. This is when I decided to dedicate my life to killing the beasts.”
Above his voice, he could hear men gathering into formation outside his tent. They would expect him to go out there and take command. They were waiting for his plan to deal with the beast.
“But you must understand that I needed practice. So my goal became to evade. Killing alone no longer gave me the thrill it used to. Evading gave me so much more. I figured that if I could learn to evade the best of human hunters, the beasts would be no challenge for my prowess.
“During this time, I learned to use every weapon known in Mor’Sham. I traveled border to border, learning from the best. I spent half of my days practicing and the other half killing. This time my hunts were aimed at people.
“I killed men and women. I didn’t care. As long as the men who wanted my target dead paid, I would do it gladly. I had to turn on my employers on several occasions. They thought to use me and kept payment from me. I showed them. For their foolishness, not only did they lose their money, they lost their lives, too. Many promised to double my earnings if I spared them. What they failed to realize, though, was that their money was no longer theirs. It was mine.
“You must understand that I had gotten quite good. People feared me. I became known as The Falcon because I would strike whenever and wherever. During the day, during the night, it didn’t matter. The darkness no longer held hideous things to me. In my eyes I was a part of that darkness. Darkness held death for most but not for me. I knew I was a thing of hideousness. Everyone and everything had to fear me. I belonged to the night, as did my prowess.
“Death no longer hid any secrets from me. I had killed so many animals and people that it was like a neighbor you never see, but know is there, always watching and waiting. I cared not for death.”
The howl came again. This time it was much closer. Jerelyn stared at the tent flap nervously. She took a step back towards him. Alysses didn’t attempt to rise from his seat. He was too comfortable to get up and comfort the woman. Besides the beast was still half a mile away.
“When did you encounter the werewolves?” she asked steadily, trying to calm her nerves. Alysses knew her too well.
“Soon after my reputation grew,” he answered. “I was hired by a king to kill his heir. He feared the child was not from his loins. The money he paid was great. The boy didn’t even have a chance.
“It was several days later, after no one came after me, that I decided it was time. I started venturing out more and more at night. I would leave blood trails throughout the city and countryside trying to get one of those things to pick up my scent. I was always careful not to lead the trail directly to me.
“It took me six months to finally find what I was looking for. I learned that they travel in packs. When they attack, a scout is always sent first. The one they send is usually small so that he may get away should he be discovered by a larger foe. The one that comes now is such a one. The rest of them are out there somewhere, waiting for it to return.”
“Then we are in great danger!” she exclaimed. Everyone in his little army knew Miss Jerelyn was terrified of werebeasts. It gave her the chills to think of men and women turning into such foul creatures.
Alysses regarded her kindly; to most, that look would have been chilling, but not to Jerelyn Mendever. She knew that look to be the closest expression to kindness that ever came across his face.
“Don’t worry, Miss Jerelyn,” he calmed her without rising. “When a scout doesn’t return, they wait a night. Then they send another. I don’t plan to let this one live long, and I don’t plan to be here tomorrow night.”
She always took his words for face value. She calmed down immediately. Jerelyn was never one to fear anything for long, although she was shaken well enough.
“What else did you learn?” she asked.
Alysses thought for a moment. There were so many things to tell. He could remember those nights when he hunted. He would hunt the hunters, making them feel weak and threatened. This gave him the greatest pleasure; to make such ferocious beasts angry was bliss.
He followed them always, when he wasn’t at work. Occasionally, he tracked the creatures when they were in groups. If he wanted to have fun, he would pick one out and harass it. He would chase it and threaten it during the day, in its human shape. When night came, he would set snares and capture the beast. He would torture the beast before killing it.
Alysses would then use its entrails and remains to taunt the pack. They would snarl at the moon and growl at his presence. They would hunt him and search for him, but they could never find him. The Falcon was an appropriate name for the hunter of wolves. He was the slayer of supernatural beasts. If he could find a way live forever, they would have to fear him forever.
Just then the tent flap opened and brought him out of his thoughts. A women with raven black hair stood at the entrance looking in. Her ocean blue eyes sparkled in the lamplight as they took everything in. The resemblance between her and Jerelyn Mendevere was uncanny. “Am I interrupting anything?” she asked in a cold voice.
It was the coldest voice Alysses had ever heard come out of a woman’s mouth. “No,” he said simply. “We were just discussing the finer points to werewolf hunting.”
She came in unbidden. She stood as tall as her twin sister, shoulder to shoulder. Their faces were a one hundred percent match, but the resemblance ended there. Where Jerelyn was an angry angel, Eliana Bantikoff was a hating daemon. Jerelyn used her green eyes and reddish hair to deceive, to spellbind men who thought with their desires and needs. Eliana used her black straight hair and blue eyes to trick and fool. She used her skills to do her fighting. The women were opposites except in their lust to consume and destroy.
Alysses watched them both. Suddenly having Jerelyn in his bed wasn’t such a bad idea. Eliana always made things interesting, especially if she partook in the activities.
The slender woman turned her blue eyes towards him. “The beast draws closer. The men get restless.”
Alysses waved her concerns away. “I will deal with it at the proper time. It will do the men some good to wait anxiously. When we deal with the beast, it will be a reminder to them who is their master. Right?”
Eliana Bantikoff smiled displaying straight white teeth. Her lips weren’t as full as her sister’s but they would do for any man. “I just hope you know what you are doing? The wench gets closer every second and we can’t afford to lose any men.”
Alysses turned to face the red haired woman. “Jerelyn, do me a favor and calm your sister’s concerns. Reassure her that I know exactly what I’m doing.”
“As for the wench,” he continued. “Andina Lerouse will die tomorrow. She comes right into our hands. I don’t think she even knows that danger awaits her. Have you sent the scouts out? I don’t want to be surprised tomorrow morning. LeHigh Adabele bought us plenty of time by keeping her detained. I want to make sure we make proper use of the extra time.” He could hear armor and weapons being strapped on and weapons being drawn.
“I sent the scouts out three hours ago, Alysses,” replied the black-haired lady. “If you didn’t spend so much time with sister in this damn tent, you would have known by now that they searched and found nothing. The Hills of Fae belong to us this night... and to the beast that makes its way here.”
Alysses stood up. “Did you send men into Acrene Tarrynth? We are close enough to the border that an enemy could be hiding there. As for the beast, the only thing that belongs to him this night is his death.”
Copyright © 2005 by Julian Lawler