Chapter One: Death
These memories rain down on me. They pool up at my feet, foam up to my neck, until I can’t grasp this blood soaked reality. They come in flashbacks now, sudden and shattering. All I see is red; red blood and red sky with a jagged moon that looms above me, laughing. Maybe this is right. Will I find solace in death? I can’t know for sure. Footsteps approach, I try to slow my breathing.
“Child, it is time.” It’s Emma, the wise woman of the village I ravaged with no remorse. She was my judgment, my due justice. I rise to meet her gaze; and together we slowly emerge from my cave. A bright moon shines down on the gallows. The village people stare. Torches in hand and glares on their faces. Some are mortified of me, and the women hide behind their husbands. I lower my head, looking upon them will do nothing now. Emma walks calmly alongside me. Her long white robes flow gracefully from her shoulders, her crucifix sparkles. Crescent moons and stars are etched into her clothing; her hair is pulled back in a bun. She steps carefully but confidently, and takes a deep breath before stopping to look at me.
“You know that should you resist, I will stop you. Accept your fate now child, it is your last chance to go on to the next life with a peaceful mind. I will pray for you, as I have the moment I met you.” Our feet crunch across the dead leaves and branches, I feel her resolve and I try my best to understand. I must take her words as fact; I want nothing but a peaceful existence. If I must die to attain that peace then so be it. Yet the presence of the villagers makes my stomach turn, I hate them all. I smell their fear and bloodlust, the hatred and confusion from them all. I hear their racing hearts, I smell the wood of the freshly cut beams from which I will hang. As she leads me up the steps, the men at the front of the crowd start to shout. “That little bitch!” “Why isn’t she bound?!” “She’s a monster not a child!” “Kill it before she attacks again!” “Emma! Ring her neck already!” I can’t help it, their taunting is unnerving. Angry tears streak down my face, I keep my head lowered so my ragged hair covers my face, but the executioner pulls it back as he slips the noose over my neck. For a brief moment, as the hair falls over my face I see him. A boy who looks about my age, he looks upon me with tears in his eyes. Why? I break the stare when I hear Emma clearing her throat. She begins her speech with an opening prayer, she speaks clearly and loudly to be heard over the screaming men. Roaring, ringing in my ears, I hear my heartbeat. My body trembles, my palms are sweating and I can’t breathe right. Something hits my head, a rock? More shouts, only this time from Emma. The bloodlust skyrockets. I feel more things being thrown at me; I hear the grunting of the executioner as he pushes people away from the platform. It doesn’t matter. I am far away. Numb and empty, the wise woman finally finishes her speech, and my feet drop beneath me.
Death came so suddenly, I barely noticed it. Not a moment ago I stood on my two feet, my heart beating and healthy. Now, the noose stops my breathing, stops my falling. The thick rope cuts deep into my flesh, but I can barely feel it. It’s over. I am free. My suffering will now come to an end. No more bloodshed, no more pain. I pull my dying face into a grin. The light fades from my eyes, darkness engulfs me and eternal tranquility is so near. I feel the presence of the world drift away, the cheering of the townsfolk fades, and my mind feels like mush. Basking in the eternal silence, I didn’t even notice her. The light somehow finds my eyes again. It’s so bright; a blinding sterile light burns and pierces my skull. Something is chaining me down; something is forcing my wretched soul back into this body. I can’t fight it, my limbs are broken and my snapped neck prevents me from crying out. That’s when I heard her voice. A slithering and slimy voice, beckoning me; “My dear child, I am bestowing life into your dead body. You will live; you will awaken and avenge those that have wronged you. Awaken my dear pet, awaken.” Long delicate fingers whisk around my heart and squeeze, and again, and again, and again.
With a jolt my body writhes and jerks back to life. My eyes shoot open and my scream becomes a gritty howl, my hands extend and sharpen. With a snap, my death rope slackens and I crumple to the floor. No one has moved, no one made a sound, and for one last moment it is quiet. Even the crickets have stopped their chirping. Then I throw my head up; in a flash I’m atop the executioner. He screams while my muzzle buries into his chest, blood sinks into my gums and soft tissue spills out of him. The villagers shriek and scatter like frightened prey and my eyes set on the men who were throwing rocks at me. Their eyes widen and at least two of them pissed themselves. I leap in the air with joy, I shall kill them all! I lunge upon two men, their heads crack when they hit the ground. I swing my massive paws into another, bashing his chest in, relishing in the sound of his breaking bones. One man pathetically swings a scythe at me, I grabbed it midair with my teeth and pulled it from his grasp. He stumbled and skidded in the dirt, trying to run away. With a snap of my jaws I catch his hair in my teeth and drag him down. He begs for his life, calls out to God and to his mother, but his words choke and sputter as I rip his voice box out. More men come, charging toward me with sticks and scythes. Why does my prey come running to their deaths? I swing and kick them all down, tearing into their flesh and bone. I rip limbs from torsos, and stomp more faces into the dirt. By now the townsfolk have either run off or died by my jaws. Now, where did Emma run off to? I’m dying to taste her holy blood. She’s the one that brought me back here; she should have left me alone! I raise my nose to the wind to see if I can catch her earthy scent, that’s when I hear the sound of a sobbing woman from behind me. I turn to see her leaning over one of the bodies, trying to shake him awake. His eyes are rolled back in his skull, showing only whites. Her quivering hands are soaked in blood, and her desperate pleas become hysterical screams. She looks up and sees me, tears in her eyes and she shouts; “You monster! I’ll kill you for this!”
Emma will have to live a moment longer, I should kill every last human here. I stalk around the woman, my tongue lolling out in a sinister smile. I smell her fear and her precious blood, I want it. All of their crimson blood will fill my belly. In a flash I pin her to the ground, she begins to scream and kick. I lick my chops and lower my head to sink my jaws into her soft neck. “Die beast of Satan!” I’m about to turn around and rip Emma’s throat out but a holy presence paralyzes me, my body pulses with white light and the fur on the back of my neck stands up. Her crystal dagger comes down and thrusts into my back. Pain like lightening from the sky courses through me, for a few moments I tremble while drool flows from my mouth. “Shit.” Quickly Emma tries to rip her dagger out of my shoulder. She has missed my spine, now it’s my turn. I throw my body out, attempting to crush her with my weight. In a second she’s let go of the dagger and tumbles away from me. She makes a dash for the chapel, where her powers can be restored. I can’t resist. I race after her on all fours, tearing up patches of earth with each stride. We race past the houses, past the bodies; I’m so close I hear each beat of her heart. Just as I lean in to snatch her ankle, something comes over me. I shake my head, trying to brush off this feeling; I’ve already lost some distance. My ears start to ring, and the faintest of melodies plays in my head. My strides slow to a trot, until I stop completely. Stupidly I watch Emma run off into the distance, not looking to see that I’d stopped the chase. Where? Where was that music coming from? A gentle but distinct force drew my attention to the east, into the woods. Hesitantly, I stepped through the grass and into the thickening trees. The melody rang more clearly in my ears as I moved forward. A voice, I knew I had heard when my dead heart was revived, but it couldn’t be the same one. This voice was kind and gentle; it calmed my mind and soul. I followed the song beyond the trees.
“Little wolf, little wolf,
You’re fur is wet
with blood and tears,
O little wolf, little wolf
who will guide you?
Through the forest
and the villages,
away from your fears?
Little wolf, little wolf,
long claws and teeth,
I will soothe you,
Come lay by my feet”
A clearing opened up around me, like a cloud the song drifted farther, into the opening of a cave I have never seen before. I’ve lived in these woods for as long as I can remember; I have hunted here and slept under these same stars. How have I never seen this place before? When I told my legs to stop moving they disobeyed, the song had completely entranced me. I broke into a sweat; the aura coming from the cave was sinister and full of malice. No wonder I’ve never seen this place. No sane animal or human would come here. The trees were bare and broken, not a squirrel or bird nest in sight. While the rest of the forest bustled with live, this area was a dead zone, and I was being pulled right into the heart of it. Animal skulls littered the cave floor, tuffs of fur and feathers were scattered about like décor. That’s when I saw her. A monstrous woman, not by size or appearance but from her presence, watched me intensely from her throne. As I moved closer the candlelight revealed what she was sitting upon, a throne of human skulls. Some were caked in dirt; some had dried blood on their teeth, some were pierced so the brains could spill out. Each skull was different; each person had died in some awful way.
Her face turned up into a wicked smile, long curling black hair flowed over her shoulders and onto her lap. She was adorned in jewels. Ruby earrings and talismans containing petrified bugs hung from her neck. Bangles hung from her wrists, and her long nails were painted pitch black. Her eyes stared deep into me, picking and pulling at all my insecurities. I was utterly helpless before her. She chuckled and clicked her tongue, “Kneel”. Every bone in my body was under her control, and her cave terrified me. However, I had no intention of surrendering my will to anyone. A low growl bellowed from my chest, and I bared my jaws at her. Her smile somehow looked wider as she observed me. “How amusing. Do you believe you could touch me little wolf?” She stood up and strode right past me out of the cave, I followed behind her. The sun was beginning to set in the west, its glow bounced from the small stream nearby. After following her up a slight hill, she stopped. Immediately, I felt her powerful trance release my body, without turning to face me she said, “Here’s your chance, try and kill me.” Don’t mind if I do.
I threw my body at hers, leaping into the air and coming down swinging. She side stepped and spun around me, avoiding my attack entirely. I swung behind me and snapped my jaws; in a single movement she blocked my swing and grabbed me by the throat. Power surged into me; a ring of aura was forming around my neck. I choked and coughed, wriggling like a fly caught in a spider net. The flow of her power thickened and formed, until a solid collar of cold steel was created. She let me go, and I crumpled to the ground. I can take no more. I’ve endured so much pain already in just a short amount of time, I give up. I shifted back into my human form, still a crumpled heap on the ground, and coughed up blood and bile. She bent down and grabbed my face to angle my head to hers.
“I gave you life, when the humans tried to take it. I pitied you, and this is how you repay me?”
Tears began to stream down my face; “I didn’t want...to live anymore.”
“Oh you will live. You owe a debt to me. But don’t worry; as long as my collar is fastened around your neck, I’m sure you can find a way to repay me.” She smiled tenderly and stroked my cheek, wiping the hot tears from my face. She picked up my hands, turned them over, examining my cuts and bruises. She stood, looking down on me for a moment longer and said, “Come inside now, I will shelter you until your wounds have healed.” Without another glance she strode back into the cave, leaving me in the dirt where I lay.