Of Wolf and Man

Tooth of the Wolf

Excerpt from Rage Across Seattle

“I found your Private Reich up there…or what was left of him. You didn’t finish! Well, I can’t blame you – he was tough. But then, a good soldier ought to be.”
Ives from the movie ‘Ravenous’

The sound of a flute echoed through the forest.

Wendigo cackled as he raised his nose to the air and sniffed. The smell of cooking meat made his mouth water. It was unusual because normally he liked his food more on the raw side. He took a few stumbling steps and then fell into a four legged gait, pressing through the thick, damp foliage. He heard the scampering of spirits as they fled out of his path, smelled their fear as his wizened form tottered past.

He paused at the edge of a clearing. Luna was full this night in Shadow, her silver light cascading down upon the makeshift campsite. The flames seemed to burn in slow motion as the grass around the fire leaned back, trying to get as far away from the fire as possible. Skewered atop and roasting in the flames was a large chunk of meat, its aroma a delightful mix of salt, skin and hair. Wendigo raised a hairy hand to his face, stroked his chin and then with a broken nail scratched and cleaned his pointed, jagged teeth.

In the shadow of a large oak sat his potential child; back resting against the tree, relaxed as he played his oddly shaped flute.

“You cannot bribe me you know,” shouted Wendigo from his place in the bushes, “I desire more from you than over cooked meat and a show tune.” The music did not falter but to Wendigo’s ear he thought there was a subtle shift…anticipation. With a cackle, Wendigo stepped into the clearing, hobbling towards the fire, every step a grunt and laugh of effort. He dropped onto his haunches in front of the fire, its flames separating him from the Uratha known as Bruce.

Head tilted, he regarded the offering. It smelled strangely delightful and he could not help but run his thin tongue across his blood caked lips. Wendigo looked towards the Uratha, “Do I wrestle you on a full stomach tonight?” He asked. “Twice already you have failed to pin me. You seem to have confused this frail old form for a piece of long pork you push around in one of those chairs with wheels.”

The flute music stopped as Bruce stood up, his large frame moving easily as he stalked towards the fire. He gave his dreadlocked hair a shake as he sat down across the Wendigo. Out of a bag he took out a drinking flask and quickly took a swig. Bruce stared at Wendigo through the red and gold flames. “You have to be given permission to eat my food don’t you?” It was both a statement and a question and Wendigo responded with a cackle.

“I thought as much,” and Bruce lifted his flask for another drink.

“It’s a trick is it? You have poisoned the meat haven’t you?” Wendigo clapped his hands together and laughed with glee as he danced around in a little circle.
“No. Besides who says I was going to give you some anyway,” said Bruce
Wendigo sniffed at the roasting carcass, “Hmm doesn’t smell like poison but it does smell delicious. Let me have some and perhaps I will go easier on you this time. Let the count get up to two before I throw off your malnourished form.”
“Perhaps…but first I want more.”
“More…you want more. At the moment you have nothing. I can give you more of nothing.”
“I want to be Lodgemaster,” said Bruce calmly, idly fingering his flute.
Wendigo squealed with laughter. “You are not even part of the Lodge. Oh the pride. You want to bite off more than you can chew.” Wendigo calmed himself, his voice dropping into a harsh whisper, “But I will agree to your request. If you defeat me tonight you will become one of my children – leader of the pack if you will. But if you fail then never will you see me again, and I will take with me a little extra.”

There was a momentary flash of fear in Bruce’s dark eyes. Bruce swallowed and rose onto his haunches. “Eat up,” he whispered.

Wendigo punched his clawed hand into the roasting meat and ripped it away from the fire. Blisters bloomed on his dirty, wrinkled flesh and then healed just as quickly as he smashed his fanged mouth against the ribs of the carcass. The food was rich with salt as he filled his maw with both meat and fat. His mouth chewed quickly, his jagged fangs carving up his own lips as he ate and healing only to be chopped up again.

“Delightful!” Wendigo cackled as food fell from his mouth, “What animal is this?”
“It’s a boar spirit. One that ate its young,” said Bruce, a slight grimace on his face as he watched Wendigo devour the pork.
“Hmm I can almost taste the irony, “ laughed Wendigo as his next bite went through flesh and ribs, his strong jaws cracking bones with every chew like they were boiled lollies.

Wendigo stopped eating momentarily and scraped up some of the food that had fallen to the ground. “A drink…a drink,” he slobbered as he slammed a handful of half chewed meat back into his mouth from where it had tried to escape earlier. Bruce threw his drinking flask over the fire which Wendigo caught with a snap of his hand. He bit the top off the container and downed the drink, washing and cleansing his mouth of all the hot, salty fat that had accumulated.

Wendigo coughed after finishing the drink and eyed the remains of the flask. “I expected Sake…not…not beer?” questioned the cannibal spirit.
“Actually it’s called Tooth of the Wolf,” said Bruce.
Wendigo cackled, “Yes it’s got a bit of bite.” Once again he spun around on his haunches in glee, squealing with laughter and taking another bite of the boar spirit.

Wendigo’s stomach cramped sending painful convulsions through his body. He shivered as he tried to stand but another wave of pain flooded his body and the dropped to his knees. Laughing through the pain, “You did poison the meat. Funny it didn’t taste like poison.”
“The meat was fine,” said Bruce and his eyes glanced towards the broken and discarded flask.
“But I saw you drink from it?” said Wendigo, his eyes following Bruce’s.
“Did you?”

Wendigo looked to the Shadow’s sky and saw Luna melt and drip from the clouds. Laughter echoed from the twisted and bent trees around the clearing and the grass clung sticky to his feet making them heavy. Dropping on all fours as another convulsion rushed through his body, he dug his hands into the earth, the grains of soil feeling like shards of glass as they passed between his fingers. The smell of rotting meat punched his nose as the half eaten boar carcass split open like a blooming flower to reveal scorched, squirming piglets inside. Lifting his head he saw the fire twist and snake in violets and red and then a shadow burst through the flames and crashed into him.

Wendigo was on his back and he could feel himself sinking into the earth. Bits of the sky had fallen on top of him, weighing him down. Occasionally a piece of cloud struck his face and he recoiled from the blows. With his next painful convulsion he kicked his body up and for a brief moment he lay their floating. The weight was gone, he was free. He laughed as he licked his lips, moving onto his hands and knees, the smell of the sea and roar of the waves around him. A tentacle wrapped around his waist, another around his shoulder and that crushing weight was back again. The kraken had him, twisting and squeezing as it brought all its strength to bear. Something hard came up under his chin, a wooden tentacle crushing his windpipe. He could see the beaked mouth of the creature now, with every second passing it got closer and darker, the black pit that would suck him down and swallow him whole.

Deeper into darkness.

Wendigo laid there, pain still rippling through his body. He opened one eye and saw the forest at the edge of the clearing. Strange shadows dipped and twisted. He pushed himself up onto his knees and looked skyward where Luna had once again pooled herself whole. Looking back over his shoulder towards the fire he saw the Uratha, flute in hand, carefully regarding the flames which now burned their normal red and gold. Shadow and color twisted and steadied as the pains ceased throughout his body. Wendigo moved back to the fire and sat. He picked up the half eaten boar and took a careful bite, tasting its juices as they filled his mouth and ran down his chin.

“Come to me,” said Wendigo, his voice barely a whisper.
Bruce paused and then stood, walking around the fire, his eyes never leaving the spirit.
“The secret is in the blood,” whispered Wendigo as he took another bite of meat and bone.
“I know,” said Bruce as he crouched down.
“Do you?” Wendigo took another bite of boar and then bit his own hand. He offered the bleeding wound to Bruce who shied away.
“Juicy secrets,“ laughed Wendigo.
Bruce steadied himself and then licked the blood from the wound.
Wendigo cackled, “You can almost taste the irony.”

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