Ela & Martialla in “Fool’s Moon”

Winona Nelson

Here’s a funny thing about werewolves.  They’re all focused on the pack and kinship and whatever, but they don’t help their wounded.  I wonder if it’s because they so rarely get hurt that something in their wolf-brain can’t understand it when it does happens.  If you kill one of their pack they’ll revenge-torture the fuck out of you if they get their damn dirty wolf paws on you, it makes them SO MAD that you did that, but they won’t stop to pick up their injured packmate.  Weird huh? 

We followed the blood trails of the three that Martialla had wounded and put an end to their days of wolfery.  We had the still alive men of the party stab them real good with their silver tipped spears and whatnot, mostly to save on ammo but also to make them feel good, make them feel like they were useful.  Now if any of them survive they can tell their grandkids that old grandpappy killed himself a werewolf when he was young and full of beans.   

We lost half out men and used half our silver bullets killing two wolves old enough to turn and five that were stuck as people for a few more days until the phase of the moon, or would have been rather if we hadn’t killed them first.  Which we did.   I was assuming, based on nothing, that there were no more than a dozen wolves at the start of the engagement.  Two of those still alive we had seen, and they were non-changers for the moment.  Left unseen, daddy wolf had to be out there somewhere, leaving two others as questions marks but probably the old ones that can change as they please.   

If daddy wolf was smart he’d take his remaining family into the woods where we’d never find them and then come back and attack the village on the full moon with all his wolfy wolves wolfed to the max.  But as we’ve established he can’t do that.  He has to meet our challenge.   

Even for a tactical genius like myself it was a tough call – push onward or retire in good order to steal all the silver in the village and come back the next day?  “Ela if you’re so smart why didn’t you get all the silver in the first place?”  Shut up, that’s why.   

In the end the decision was simple, head back to the village because I was hungry and out of booze and my feet hurt from walking around in the woods.   

Getting back to the river was easy enough, the surviving men knew exactly which way to go to get away.  They had that locked in.  Which was nice because between me you and the dead wolves Martialla and I have a bad habit of getting lost when there’s no roads to follow.  It’s embarrassing but neither of us has a very good sense of direction. 

Getting back across the river was easy too.  There were a couple guys waiting for us on the far side with the boats.  Some of the war party suggested leaving the boats on this side with a guard like morons.  Good thing they hired me. 

Getting the rest of the silver from the villagers was not so easy.  They already gave us “all” the silver they had before, but of course they had more.  No one gives you everything that they have first time out.  Or even second time.  Even third time is not that reliable.  You know why bandits are always torturing famers?  Because people always have more hidden.  Also because bandits jerks.  Piece of advice if you’re a murdering psycho go after bandits, no one care if you kill them, sometimes they give you money for doing it.  Every hates bandits. 

We were in the process of getting the second pile of “all” the silver in town when the wolves appeared on the far side of the river.  Which I admit is a move that I did not expect. 

Pappa wolf was actually Momma wolf, which is rare.  Also gross because rows of wolf boobs.  Most creatures you can’t tell the genders apart really, unless they have a baby with them there’s not much to differentiate a female troll from a male, but with werewolves it’s repellently easy. 

The alpha wolf was big, you might have guessed that, but she was the biggest werewolf I have ever seen, or even heard about.  She was the size of one of the boats we just got out of, she was massive.  She only had one other wolfed out wolf with her, who was also a female but she was an emaciated little thing.  Well not little, she was like seven feet high, but she was thin like a jackal demon.  I’ve never seen a werewolf like that before.

The bad news was there were way more human-wolfs than I was expected.  Flanking them were a dozen of their human form kin.  Even worse news most of them had actual weapons, crude weapons, but weapons other than rocks and sharp sticks.   A few of them even had bits of armor on.  

Martialla turned to me, sack of silverware and candlesticks still in her hands “I think we have enough pelts for Fort Thunder don’t you?  Time to go?”

Before I could answer the momma-alpha did something I would have never expected in ten thousand years – she spoke. 

“May your veins weep!  May every beast of the earth and sky lust for your blood!”

I looked to Martialla “Uh, did you know they could do that?”

Before Martialla could answer me the human-wolves surged into the river water and started swimming across frighteningly fast.  I raised my pistol and fired, straight and true at the alpha, and it passed through nothing.  She was gone in the blink of an eye. 

Martialla was firing at the swimmers and I was splattered across the arms and upper body by hot tar.  The alpha was standing right beside me and she cast a spell!  I didn’t know they could talk in wolf form and I sure as hell didn’t know they could work magic like that!   

The heat coming through my shirt was insufferable, but the places where the tar fell on my neck and bare hand were agonizing.   I dropped my pistol with a shriek.  Martialla started weaving a spell of her own, but the other skinny wolf appeared on the other side of us and with a gesture of her wolf-hand one of the rings on Martialla’s finger blazed white-hot.  Her spell forgotten with an agonized scream of her own Martialla yanked the ring off, along with a majority of the skin on that finger and its two neighbors.

Before we could react to do anything else big-wolf and skinny-wolf clasped hands like they were going to skip through a dewy meadow and pointed at one of the only village fighters who wasn’t running for his life.  They spit vile curses at him and he dropped to the ground convulsing violently.  At first I thought that they had wracked him with pain, but quickly their intent was made apparent.  With a hideous snapping sound he bent over backwards in an excruciating lurch as the transformation began – tearing at his clothes with his clawed hands as he became the wolf.

I know of that spell, moon curse or something like that.  It’s some powerful shit.  I was starting to get the distinct impression that we were fucked.  Fucked proper. 

Gritting my teeth against the burning tar I shaped my hand into a lion’s paw and leapt with claws out,  the alpha caught my arm, checking me as easily as a father would a tiny child trying to slap at them.  She had strength that that you wouldn’t believe.  She grinned, her mouth a disaster of crooked brown teeth, and squeezed – sending pain shooting up my arm as the bone flexed and started to crack.  Desperately I flung a magic bead at her feet, a roaring campfire springing into life underneath her.  To my satisfaction she leapt back with her own cry of pain. 

“How about a little fire?”

“A pox upon your soul!”

At her words an aching, itching rash appeared instantly on my body, covering me from knees to chin.  I grabbed up my pistol and fired but I missed so badly I doubt an onlooker would have even known I was firing at her.

I was trying to keep track of Martialla out of the corner of my eye.  She was able to buy enough time to by turning invisible to do her sea-witchery and send all the human-wolves in the river under the water with waves and wind.  I guess it’s easier to drown a werewolf than I think if you’re a former ship’s mage and they’re nice enough to jump into a river for you. 

That didn’t last long though, skinny had no trouble finding sniffing her out and ripping away her invisibility magic with her own, burning Martialla with strange purple flames and sending her tumbling to the ground.  Our once ally, now in full-blooded werewolf form went after another villager with a vicious snarl.  He tried to run, was pounced on like a rabbit, seized by the back of the neck with wolf jaws.

Alpha walked towards me, heedless of my pistol, which upon reloading I managed to fire, missed badly again.  She made a move to knock the gun out of my hands, but I dropped it willingly and seized her arm, using her momentum against her to trip and roll and fall towards the merrily burning campfire.

Grabbing a clump of her mangy crusty fur I managed to shove her snout into the flames for a split second before she tossed me off like a bull dislodging a bloodfly.  I landed badly, face and collarbone first, with all of my weight above and behind me.  Alpha calmly walked up on me and slashed me across the back with her claws casually.   It felt like being raked with a pitchfork.  Not only that, but I felt the strength being magically sapped from my limbs.  With nothing much else to do I went for the Deck of Curses and flung a card at her, it sliced into her flesh like a tiny dagger and more helpfully appeared to strike her blind.

“A brave attempt dearie, but the darkness holds no terrors for me, the stink of your rancid nethers fills my nostrils.”

There was a part of me that wanted to respond with a witty rejoinder but it was overruled by the ninety-nine percent of me what was scared shitless and wanted to scramble as far away as I could.  A villager, covered with blood, had clambered up the side of a house to get away from the wolf that was once their neighbor, but I saw it literally rip the shack out of its foundation and send the poor sod tumbling through the air to crash into the dirt. 

Martialla, air shimmering around her with some kind of magic shield, had resorted to going sword to claw against skinny wolf and was just barely managing to hold her own.  Taking skinny by surprise from the blindside, I cuffed her across the back of the head with my lion-paw, sending her stumbling into a gutting strike from Martialla’s blade.  I leapt on her back with all my body weight, getting her in a chokehold as Martialla stabbed her repeatedly in the belly and thighs.  She slowly went to the ground as Alpha screamed as if she felt the same pain. 

Even blinded Alpha came unerringly at us.  I shoved a random villager into her path to be torn in half like a sheet of parchment, an act for which I feel no remorse.  Two more villager rushed to struggle with the alpha uselessly.  The new wolf had a villager by the throat and was choking the life out of him like a farmer strangling a chicken.  I looked to Martialla, seeing true terror in her eyes as she loaded her rifle.

She got one shot off before Alpha was on her.  The shot hit the alpha low somewhere but it didn’t bother her overly much.  Alpha swatted the rifle, not out of Martialla’s hands, she merely smashed it to pieces. 

I should have run.  I should have left Martialla to die.  That’s what she’s for after all.  My grandmother would be very disappointed with me if she was still alive to know about it.  Dying of something as silly as friendship?  Like a child would do?  She wouldn’t have cared for that at all, she trained me better than that.  For the first time ever I was glad she wasn’t around.  She would have been so ashamed of her granddaughter. 

Since I couldn’t seem to hit anything with my pistol dropped it and I drew my (stolen) blade, lunging at the alpha as she was stalking Martialla.  The blade slide through her spine and guts as smooth as you like.  Alpha didn’t seem to mind much.  She broke the handle off the blade with a back-chop and then pushed the rest out of her belly like she was giving birth, the wound healing instantly. 

“Fucking alchemists” I mutter as I duck/dodged/rolled/fell on me ass out of the way of a claw-strike. 

I flipped another card from the Desk of Curses at her as she loomed over me but if it had any effect it wasn’t apparent.  Martialla shooting her in the back of the head with my pistol had more effect, but still not nearly as much as I would have liked.  I would have preferred that her head imploded and she fell over dead.  Instead a silver bullet in the brainpan seemed to just stun her for a moment.  She shook her head like a pig that you conked with a hammer and seemed to be, not fine, but good enough to finish us off. 

I’d wager she would have done just that had no several village women run up and stabbed her to death with the silvered implements their dead husbands and brothers and so forth had dropped.  I saw that back behind them four more women had each grabbed a limb of their fellow villager who had been turned and, amazingly, had wrestled the rampaging wolf-beast to the ground.

Seeing this Martialla sprinted over to them and touched the poor man with a reversal spell that slowly made him revert to her human form – passed out cold and slicked with blood and sweat and mud.  I noticed that some of the women had removed their shirts and bore the stars and garters tattoo of the Red Widows mercenary company. 

“You’re ex-mercs?”  I said to one standing over the dead alpha with a pitchfork.  She nodded.  “Why didn’t you come forward when we were putting together the warparty?!”

She seemed legitimately confused “You asked for the fighting men in town.  We’re not men.  We’re women.”

I fucking hate the Far Country.

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