If there’s anything good about the Far Country, which there isn’t, it’s that that the Far Country is such a backwater hog wallow that no one hassles Martialla and me for the unforgivable crime for being women. Back home I was arrested several times for wearing trousers. You have to reach a certain level of civilization before men start thinking “how can we keep our women trapped inside all the time until they die in childbirth?” Out here no one gives a shit. That works to our advantage.
The Far Country is so called because it’s far away from the good parts of the Kingdom and no one cared enough to give it a better name. Not even the people that live here care enough to call it something else. They’re so out of the loop we’ve encountered two colonies from nations that don’t even exist anymore. I had one of them halfway convinced that I was the new governor until Martialla ruined everything with her bungling.
That same bungler was explaining to our pathetic war party that werewolves aren’t what they might think. It’s probably pointless because you can’t really prepare someone for the sight of a real wolfman (or woman) but if it keeps at least one rancher from freezing at first contact that’s something. If you’ve never seen a man (or woman) wolf, which you haven’t since you’re still alive and not a mighty warrior like me, you know the basics – it’s a wolf in a man form.
But whatever image you have in your head is probably wrong. Wolves are noble creatures, they have an air of dignity about them, based on that you’re probably thinking of a wolfman (or woman) as being scary, for sure, but in an impressive and mighty way. The kind of thing you might like to see at a distance. The reality is far mangier and awkward. You’re probably picturing a big athletic person that just happens to have wolf-fur and a wolf head. Mostly man with a little wolf for flavor. The truth is more half and half and it’s not a pretty sight.
They don’t stand up straight for one thing. They have a posture more like apes in that regard. They can stand up to rip you apart but they run on four limbs and it’s a weird upright kind of lurch neither two legs nor four. And those limbs are far spindlier than you’re imagining. The legs in particular are a mess. Think about how your knee works, and then take a gander at your good old hound dog and how its legs go. Imagine those two mashed together. The Gods didn’t do that. Not one of the good Gods anyway.
You’re probably not envisioning your your werewolf having gross tangled fur either, but they sure as Hells do. I don’t know anything about wolf hygiene but people hyenine is tenuous at best and the combination is worse still. It’s like the wolf half and the human half are both expecting the other one to take care of it.
If you ever want to draw a true to life man (or woman) wolf make sure you include stink lines because they reek like a middens. Werewolves are stealthy beasts, you have to be very skilled in woodcraft to suss one out if they’re stalking you, except for the stink. If you have a sharp nose, which I happen to be blessed with (also it’s cute as a button), you always know when there are wolfmen (or women) about. I wonder if a bottle of perfume would burn them like holy water does the undead.
Once she was done with her rousing pre-murder speech Martialla came back over to me as the assorted ranchers and leatherworkers and shit-shovelers she had been rousing disbursed and set about getting ready our vast fleet of four rickety dinghies to cross the river into enemy territory.
“Do you think the wolves have boats or how do they get over here?”
Martialla stopped short to look at me, like I had said a joke “They probably swim.”
“Oh” I said, feeling stupid “Right. What’s your assessment oh captain my captain? Any of those dirty dingus stinky pants going to make it through the coming great battle?”
She looked to the shore where they were doing things with ropes and oars and whatnot “The half deaf guy is a veteran, and the fat guy is a trained warrior, so they’re going to die for sure, the two big guys seem brave or at least want to be seen as brave so they’re dead, a couple of the others who are fast runners might back it back to the river. I tell you, what I’d like is a good houndmaster and about a dozen vicious dogs.”
“Why, so they can could get ripped apart by wolfmen?”
“Better them than me.”
I didn’t want to admit it because I love dogs, but I agreed with her because I love Ela more, and rightfully so because I am a delight. The only better time to shoot a werewolf than when it’s attacking and killing a faithful and loyal hound is when they’re in human form and sound asleep.
Martialla, as you know, was an able sea(wo)man before she became my female assistant entrusted with a wide variety of tasks so it was hard to guess which she was more disgusted by, the fighting force itself or their clumsy handling of the boats and the river crossing. Which we watched from the shore on account of we weren’t trusting them not to dunk us and get our powder wet. If you know what I mean. When it was just about time for us to join them I retrieved the ancestral blade of the Murphy family and handed it to Martialla for her to affix the same wolfsbane charm that adorned her shady cutlass.
“You think those actually work? That alchemist seemed pretty dodgy.”
She snorted “Is there any other kind of alchemist?” She tied it off and handed the blade back to me. “Let’s hope to the Hells that we don’t have to find out.”
With those inspiring words I jumped on her broad mannish back like a child and she summoned her magic to float us across the air to land genteelly on the other side where the rest of the combatants were sloshing through the mud and struggling to get the boats pulled out of the water. Once they were assembled around us I held up my pistol like I was ready for a duel, or ready for having my portrait painted.
“Alright boyos, time to make with the killin’ and dyin’. Anyone who takes out a werewolf and makes it back to the village alive can have sex with Martialla.”
She had her rifle across her shoulders like a yoke “And I do the really weird stuff.”