Who like’s crossing lines? I do! One of the fun things about having a main character who’s a werewolf is the struggle between man and beast. Here’s part 3 of Rage of the Cursed. I might be doing some time hopping shenanigans in this story. Not in the Marty McFly way. I mean in the Pulp Fiction sort of way.
Rage of the Cursed, Part 3 — Hunger
Xallion grudgingly led K’rros back to their camp, pausing to retrieve the remains of the slain deer. The beasts of the L’kavrik north could smell danger, knowing full well when a larger animal claimed prey. His Wolven form left such an odor to the surrounding atmosphere, or perhaps they feared K’rros worse than him.
The deer lay untouched on the frozen ground, the chill of the air did well to preserve it. The beast’s blood had cooled. Its eyes remained open, frozen in a look of startled fear. Xallion closed them, with clawed fingers.
He hoisted the beast onto his shoulder, ignoring the trickle of blood on his armor.”
“<Nice kill,>”K’rros said in old tongue. “<The deer around here have good hides.>”
Xallion ignored him, less from hostility, and more from how difficult it was for him to work through his words. Like any L’kavrikan, his words were intelligible growls to the untrained ear. He folded his ears back in annoyance. Perhaps I should have killed him anyway.
“<The meat’s good too. If you ask me, you should just eat the good parts now. It’s a waste to cook them.>” K’rros matched his pace to Xallion, coming in line with him.
Xallion turned and snapped at him, clacking his teeth nosily. “<Back. My kill.>”
K’rros shrugged. “<I already ate. Where are we going? You know a good place to kill people?>”
Xallion stopped walking, glaring at him. “<No more kill. War over.>”
K’rros tilted his head to one side. A moment of realization came with a bright grin. “<You mean it? I knew my plan would work.”
“<No,>” Xallion said. “<Plan not work. Agreement.>”
I must have butchered the words. “<Friend at camp. Better with Old Tongue.>”
Xallion narrowed his eyes and brought his lips into a snarl. “<But. You try hurt friends? I kill.>”
Being a Wolven actually made the old tongue easier to say, there were no traditional vowels like the flowery New Tongue. Everything about it radiated threat and likely such a superficial difference started the war. Xallion turned away and resumed walking. A low growl rose in his throat. He had the urge to kill again. He made a mistake by invoking the change without following through. Loki did not approve of the peaceful resolution and every ounce of him itched to rip K’rros limb from limb.
He glanced back at the burly L’kavrikan. Try to tear him apart at least. “<Wait.>”
Xallion pushed through the trees revealing a sleepy campsite. Ane pointed her bow at him with an arrow notched. She relaxed with realization it was only him.
“Xallion? Are you all right? Did you find him?” Her gaze shifted to the deer. “Ugh. Why would you—”
“Better the deer than you,” Xallion said. “I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t need to.”
Her scowl softened.
Xallion set down the deer. “Rhyys. Come out of the tent. I need your help.”
Rhyys stepped from their tent, garbed in his usual robe. His sightless eyes danced about before stepping forward. “Oh. We have a guest?”
“A guest?” Ane turned to him, confused.
Xallion nodded. “He’s the man who killed the soldiers at the camp. I decided against fighting him.”
Ane let out a sigh of relief. Xallion knew she would. Violence begets more violence. One of the annoying tenets of her Gods. Her gaze settled on the trees beyond Xallion, as a talented tracker Ane Garu was not easily fooled. The hint was all she needed.
Xallion pulled out a knife, starting the arduous process of skinning the deer. “He only speaks old tongue. He’s a L’kavrikan Berzerker.”
“<You’re safe here friend.>” Rhyys called to the trees in old tongue. “<We are emissaries of peace. Protectors as it were.>”
K’rros stepped through the trees. Ane kept her bow ready, but did not aim it at him. He settled his gaze on her and grinned. He said something Xallion didn’t understand.
Ane raised a brow. “What did he say?”
Rhyys chuckled. “Something you’d consider vulgar.”
“She’s Cerenish. There’s a lot she’d consider vulgar,” Xallion said.
She scowled at that.
K’rros, upon realizing Rhyys spoke his language went into a flurry of excited babble. Xallion tuned him out, focusing on his kill. Irritation bristled through his fur, pushing away the possibilities of their fight. Would he have won? Or would K’rros have slaughtered him like the men at the Rhialnin camp.
Rhyys put a hand on Xallion’s shoulder. “He’s killed his own people as well. He said something about a plan to stop the war.”
“Yeah,” Xallion said without looking up. “He thinks killing anyone that fights is going to fix anything.”
Ane gasped. “Oh, my. Did you tell him it wouldn’t work?”
“It’s a moot point now. I told him the war is over, but who are we to tell him killing soldiers is wrong? We’ve killed soldiers on both sides too.”
“True,” Ane said. “There are bad people on both sides. So what do we do with him now?”
Rhyys smiled. “I’ve invited him to join us. If he’s killed colleagues, they likely look at him as a traitor. He’s safer with us.”
Xallion stood up. “No. Absolutely not.”
K’rros glanced to the commotion but stayed calm.
“Why not?” Ane said. “You brought him to us, I thought you’d be fine with it.”
“I brought him so you could get information from him. He should turn around and go back to whatever—”
“He’s over here!” A voice broke the silence of the forest.
“Rhialn soldiers,” Rhyys said, tightening a hand around his staff.
“Fight or flee?” Ane readied her bow.
Xallion snarled. “Fight of course.”
“Ok, but no killing,” Ane said. “We can just—”
“Look at him.” Xallion gestured to K’rros. “You think they’ll listen to reason from this guy?”
“He’s right,” Rhyys said. He focused his magic calling forth tiny globes of water. “I’ll lead a few away so we can inspire a retreat. Xallion. Loki. Get some release. I can smell your tension.”
“Gladly,” Xallion charged into the woods, hearing bits of Rhyys’ explanation to K’rros in old tongue. He broke through the trees and caught three swordsmen by surprise. He pounced on the man in front, flattening him. He gnashed at the man’s open helmet, peppering him with bloody spittle.
The other two men back-stepped in retreat. “A wolven? In armor?”
Xallion’s fang caught the cheek of the pinned soldier sending a spray of blood into the air. His prey screamed focusing more on shielding his face than fighting back. Perfect. The men readied their weapons and inched towards him.
He stood, blood dripping from his fangs and growled at them. The savage sight sapped away their bravado and they fled. Xallion kicked the grounded soldier hard, tumbling him away until he stood and fled. He cradled his bleeding cheek like a mortal wound.
A crossbow bolt screamed through the air, catching his shoulder plate and ricocheted uselessly into the trees. Xallion crouched to all fours in time to dodge the second shot, letting out a howl.
You will die for that shot, coward.
Screams filled the forest. Pillars of ice formed from Rhyys’ bubbles, forming a massive cage around the perimeter. Xallion ignored them, instead finding the scent of the crossbowman easily among the chaos. He charged forward, spotting him pulling a new bolt in place. His blood raced and his blind rage clouded his reason. Loki had control.
A prick came to his side and instinct seized him, twisting his body irregularly. The second crossbow bolt gouged the skin at his cheek but failed to pierce his tough hide. Blood blinded his right eye. His blood.
I’ll get him next. Xallion raged toward his initial target and pounced. The crossbowman fumbled his reload and crumpled under his weight. Blood fangs sunk into the exposed flesh at his throat. The taste of human blood gave Xallion enough control to throttle back.
His prey screamed and struggled against him, but Xallion could not move. He wanted this kill. Loki would not let him show mercy.
Please. He didn’t know. Xallion said. Loki didn’t listen.
Viscera filled his mouth as the man’s throat split in two. Blood spilled from the hole in his neck. The deed was done. Now for the next.
Xallion spun away and charged for the other bowman, but saw a familiar figure holding the kicking figure by the throat. K’rros grinned at Xallion, holding out a sideway’s thumb with his free hand.
He worked through the meaning. The L’kavrikan way was to fight and live, or lose and die. Xallion righted himself, half his vision clouded by red. He raised an arm, and thrust a thumb downward. Cowards didn’t deserve mercy.
K’rros nodded. He snapped the man’s neck with a twist, discarding him like a rag and twirled his axes into his hands.
“<Only kill the ones that fight,>” Xallion said, raising a hand to his bleeding cheek.
K’rros understood every word.