Storm: The Map Bearer
- Genre: Werewolf
- Status: Ongoing
- Language: English
- Author: E.V. Ometan
It was on the dark side of twilight. The town of Rim sat small but resplendent on the edge of the woods. It was picturesque with different-sized cottages and cute gardens in front of each one. The town had begun to wind down as inhabitants rushed around trying to wrap up their day’s job in order to get to the comfort of their homes.
What was most magnificent about Rim were the woods. They glowed with an incandescent light that could have been easily mistaken for an external source, but the fireflies were the cause. They buzzed their wings and sunned themselves in the last dying light of the sun, turning the woods into something ethereal to behold. The trees were green and the flowers bloomed fiercely as the wind carried their fragrance far and wide.
The woods were home to many creatures, both small and big. They were usually seen in the large strong branches of the trees or amidst their many roots. At this time, they were alive with the rich sounds of different insects and animals vying for who was the loudest. They were a monument to the rise and fall of the orchestra being played, for free inside it. The crickets crickled, cicadas whistled and the frogs croaked. If you strained your ears hard enough, you could almost hear the gurgling of water from a nearby fountain as it streamed into the basin of the sea.
Perhaps the animals within knew something was coming because as soon as the sky darkened completely, they scuttled to their various hideouts and all sounds seized. Even the crickets fell quiet. Not one leaf swayed, for there was no air to ruffle them. The woods became eerily silent, so silent, it was ominous. The large canopy trees stood large and foreboding. This brought to mind the statement; the calm before a storm.
A branch snapped, then another, yet another one, until many branches were snapping. It seemed the woods held its breath as silence once more reigned, and then an animal came out of a clearing, followed by another one, until there were about four of them. These were not the normal run of the mill type of animals. These creatures were huge, black, and hulking. Each of them were half the size of a tree. They were wolves.
Their eyes were twin orbits of black, save for the white irises in the middle of them, shaped like the crescent of a moon. One of them looked at the sky and howled.
“Be quiet!” This instruction came from one of the wolves as it looked at the one stationed close to it. The one it spoke to was not as hulking as it. “We can’t allow it to know we are on its tail.”
Though it spoke, its snout never opened. It was sending the message telepathically. The other wolf looked at it and then fell quiet.
“What do we do now, Keratin?” The wolf at the farthest end turned to look at the first one that spoke.
“Patience, Galieel, now, we wait,” Keratin replied, looking around. “We followed its scent here, it will soon show itself.”
The hulking creatures moved further into the shadow of the woods that had dense foliage. After a few minutes, they shifted from paw to paw, restlessness seeping into them. It didn’t take long as a blur of movement caught Galieel’s eyes. His huge head followed the movement.
He had the sharpest eyes amongst the four of them. “There, see yonder in the trees.”
He jerked his huge head and the other three creatures followed the movement. Sure enough, a human, or something that resembled one, crept out from the other end of the woods, looking around ever so often as if it were being followed. Within the twinkling of an eye, it began to run, except it didn’t so much run as it wheezed away. The wolves followed it, fast on its heels. Yes, they were fast, but the human-look alike was faster. It soared off, not bothering to look back or to check if its assailants were behind it. There was no need for it to be capable of outrunning them all, and that’s what it kept doing.
The wolves continued giving chase but they soon realized they were no match for this thing. The one called Keratin slowed down and the rest did so as well, following its lead. It sniffed the ground it was currently standing on and turned its head sideways, assessing everywhere before it turned to the others. “I could have sworn we have been through this same route before.”
Galieel mirrored Keratin’s gestures and snorted. “You are right, whatever this thing is, it’s leading us in circles. It obviously knows we are hot on its heels.”
Keratin snorted and shook its large head. “I would not say we are hot on its heels, I would rather say we are lagging behind.”
A flash of movement not far in front made them keep silent as they put all their attention on it. Keratin had a bad feeling about it, it almost seemed like they were all bait, like they were being goaded. Before the wolf had any time to think on the matter, one of its comrades broke away and began running towards the direction.
“Tekenna, no, it’s a trap!” He yelled. The silence that he himself had propagated, was broken. It could not be helped.
As he charged off after her with the others hot on his heels, the tightening in Keratin’s chest grew until it became like a log, heavy and unyielding. The human-thing drifted into the middle of the clearing and smiled. Bared its teeth was a better word.
Keratin repressed a shiver. Gods above! How was it possible its teeth were so long and sharp? It even gleamed in the dark.
The human-thing smiled wider, showing jagged teeth. He watched in horror as Tekenna lunged at the thing. Quick as lightning, it brought out its hand and horror smacked into Keratin. It wasn’t because the thing’s hand was too white to have been normal, it was because it had talons at the end of them in place of nails.
Everything seemed to blur at that point. As he watched, the thing’s talons made contact with Tekenna’s hide and struck it. He watched in horror and morbid fascination as Tekenna gave a loud harrowing yelp, same time as it was flung to the other end of the woods.
Before Keratin got to where Tekenna lay, he knew it had been badly injured. It lay on its side whimpering and shaking. In an instant, the wolf disappeared and a young woman lay in its place. This woman was curled into herself like a tight ball, holding her midriff.
The three other wolves also transformed into humans, all males. They were all tall and broad shouldered with long black hair that reached their waists. One in particular was the biggest of them all, Keratin. He towered above the other two men. He stooped to the woman’s level and held her shoulder. “Tekenna… my love, please say something.”
Tekenna kept moaning unintelligible words as she held onto her midriff.
Keratin gently removed her hand that was wrapped around her abdomen and his stomach churned as soon as he set eyes on the reason for her pain. This one time, he wished he had been wrong, sadly, it was as he had expected. An ugly looking wound was evident starting from her navel down to her abdomen. Around it were red angry claw marks, a testament to what Keratin had witnessed earlier on from the thing’s hand. Blood and something white and foamy, oozed out of the gash.
What actually got his attention was the thick long and twisted coil that spilled out of her body. Her intestines. If it weren’t for her hand clamped tightly around it, it would have done just that. Sweat broke out on Keratin’s forehead as pain ricocheted through his own side. He bit on his tongue to stop himself from crying out. He could feel her pain as if it were his. Their mate bond had that effect on him. They could feel each other’s pleasures and pains quite well.
He tried to absorb as much of her pain as he could, but it was not enough to lift her off the fog of torment she was currently going through.
“Keratin!” A hand landed on his shoulder and he started at the sound of his name. He turned to see Verag looking at him with a somber look on his face. “Brother, you need to take her to the mage. Perhaps, it’s not too late to heal her.”
Keratin turned and nodded. Already, he could feel her slipping in and out of consciousness. Making up his mind, he bent and gently scooped her in his arms. Her head flopped back like a rag doll. “Thanks, Verag, I…”
“We’ll take care of this stranger, brother, just go,” Galieel announced.
With one last curt nod, Keratin began to run. He felt the wind beneath his feet as he picked up speed. He blanked his mind except for the one task ahead. The trees blurred as he ran past. He didn’t stop until he stormed into a cottage, startling a woman holding a large book in her hand. She flapped it shut and dust floated up and around, setting her into a coughing fit. It was on the tip of her tongue to castigate him for such an entrance but then she noticed he carried someone in his arms.
“Come in, come in, lay her on the table.” She pointed to a long table in the middle of the room. “Gato! Please come quick.”
A man came into the room and bowed low. “You called, my lady?”
Gato was of medium height with white shoulder-length hair, a long face and piercing black eyes. His eyes narrowed as he took in the man hovering over the woman on the table protectively, then he turned to the sorcerer. “Pardon me, your ladyship, I thought we were closed?”
The sorcerer sighed, expelling air from her lips. This ruffled some of the stray hair that had slipped from the strict bun on top of her head. “Take a look at our flag.” She pointed to a flag which was poised at the top of a long pole near the large floor to ceiling bookcase. “What does it say?”
Gato scoffed but still turned his head to look at the flag. It was rectangular in shape and white in color. In the middle of it was a drawing of the full moon. Beside it was another drawing. This one was of a wolf, but what actually drew him to the wolf were its eyes. It had white crescent moon shaped irises in the middle of them, exactly like Keratin’s eyes and the other two men he had left in the woods. It never seized to amaze Gato as he stared hard at it, it’s meaning not lost on him.
“What does it say, Gato? Time is of the essence.” The mage’s voice drifted over to where Gato still stood stock still, entranced by the flag.
His eyes squinted as he took in the words below. “Justice and equity for all,” he murmured quietly. Any other person would not have heard him, but the mage had excellent hearing, sharper than any wolf’s.
“That’s right!” she said, clapping her hands triumphantly. “Now, bring my healing potions.”
The walls of the room were lined with racks of different potions in varying sizes of bottles. Their colors ranged from clear to milky, to downright black. Others had all the colors of the rainbow in them. Keratin lifted his head just in time to see Gato remove one of the bottles with rainbow colors inside from off the shelf, and walk towards the mage with a determined look.
“Let’s see now.” She collected the bottle and moved close to where Tekenna lay, still moaning, on the table. She removed Keratin’s hand from where it was applying pressure on Tekenna’s wound.
She gasped and shook her head but wisely said nothing. She uncapped the bottle, opened up the woman’s mouth, and poured a cupful of the liquid down her throat. She requested for some water, a clean sewing needle and bandages from Gato who had been silently watching her. He bowed and left, but returned shortly after with the things she requested. The mage set to work, cleaning Tekenna’s wound as best as she could, and thereafter continued the arduous task of sowing her up.
Once the wound was closed, she washed her hands with the clean water Gato brought, cleaned her hands and stood at a respectable distance away from Keratin. “You should know this…”
Keratin turned to her, waiting for her to finish her words. “Yes, your ladyship?”
“I…” She tried to swallow past the lump growing in her throat. These kinds of things were not easy for her. Delivering bad news that would forever change everything was not something she liked to do but it had to be done. She squared her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Keratin, but Tekenna…” She shook her head as sadness washed over her.
Keratin didn’t wait for her to continue, his eyes took on a haunted look. “You can’t be serious, what about the potion you gave her? Surely, that should count for something?”
But the mage shook her head sadly. “That was just to stop the pain. It’s too late, the poison has spread-”
“Poison!?” Keratin barked. He looked back at Tekenna who had stopped squirming and was sleeping peacefully, then he looked back at the mage once more, a frown slipping onto his face. “Your ladyship, you can use your magic, I know you’re powerful, and-”
The mage shook her head slowly. “The poison is too strong, my boy, it has spread throughout her body, and…” She opened her mouth as if to say something more but thought better of it.
Thoughts swirled in Keratin’s head. Tekenna… my love… my mate. She can’t die, NO! She can’t!
He shook his head fiercely. His wolf fought to break free, to run and to howl at the sky in torment, but he willed himself to rush back to Tekenna who had begun to mumble incoherently. The mage looked on from a respectable distance. She had done her best. After almost twenty minutes of murmuring incoherently, Tekenna bucked then lay still. Her hand which had been on her chest, slipped and hung limply from the edge of the table.
“My love, my love!” The mage watched as Keratin shook Tekenna but she was unresponsive.
It took almost an hour of constant shaking and calling her name for Keratin to realize Tekenna would never reply to him, for she had gone to the great beyond to be with their ancestors. She had gone to meet the moon goddess, leaving Keratin behind. A loud wail pierced the room, making the mage flinch. The sound was more animal than man.
She watched in sadness as Keratin transformed into his hulking wolf, and charged out through the door. As he ran, he let loose a howl. He remembered when he first set eyes on Tekenna, she was the chief’s daughter. She had blonde hair with pretty sky blue eyes. His mind moved, like a loop, from one picture to the other, of their first dance, their first time together, and their bonding. He remembered how he had held her in his arms that fateful night listening to her insist she didn’t want to be separated from him ever again.
These mental pictures did nothing to assuage the grief he felt. He would never hold her again, he would never watch the sunset with her again, and she would never have his cubs. Still running, he howled louder, this time, garnering the attention of other wolves. The air was suddenly rent with howls of wolves.
They were howls of despair and trauma for one of their own fallen wolves.