Prowling the Night

My grandmother’s guidance always had made the night a friend. Her favorite mushrooms and other delicacies were best gathered at night. While the other boys stayed behind I would accompany her into the night. She taught me to see by the light of the moon alone, or the light of the stars. Torchlight only carries so far. As she grew older she would send me out alone or with a braver cousin.

My younger brother Dirk, the favored one, was very afraid of the dark, my one edge over him. When he would grow to bold for his own good I would simply blow out the candle he would insist be burning while he went to sleep. Mother never bothered to relight it once it was out. My elder brothers would never tolerate his whining but often had to bring in fresh straw for him. I am glad I always contented myself with the cramped upper loft. Neither of my elder brothers found it comfortable and it did stay notably dryer once Dirk left his crib.

I mourn all three of them with a mournful howl for each. By the time the last of my breath is exhausted I find myself again reveling in the wonder of the Mother’s gift to me. Dreams are one thing, but to feel the cool ground truly on four feet is another. Still I needed practice being a wolf. It occurred to me that a distant reply to my howls was not an echo.

Was I ready to meet my other kin? A brief flush of uncertainty curbed my enthusiasm for seeking them out. With the destroyers gone the land around the citadel would hold game again, but territories are meant to be defended against strangers. Doubly true if the stranger is calling from the destroyed landscape around me. I would not be the interloper.

The land around the citadel still reeked of the siege. Much of what they had carried with them was left behind in their haste to depart. I am sure the citadel would take what they could use and leave the rest to the course of the Mother. I moved down the mount of the citadel, on the far side from the return of my soliloquy.

The remains of camps, far less organized than those of men, dotted the hillside. Smells abounded, none pleasant, until I came upon a scent mark. It took me a moment to tease the smell from the background, a fairly fresh mark, I knew it was a male, not a dog or a wolf, similar, but what?

I picked up the trail with ease; three other animals accompanied the male. When I came to some muddied ground the tracks were clear in sight and smell I knew what I was following. At home we called them brush jackals; the reason a shepherd needed a good herding dog. Jackals pose little threat to a healthy goat or sheep but a real threat during lambing.

True wolves kept their distance from the lairs and herds of men most of the time. Jackals are creatures of opportunity and readily test boundaries of both wolves and men; tolerated by neither. Where men hold them in check with sling stones or arrows wolves use their teeth. It was time to practice a somewhat familiar skill with the tools of my new body.

I entered a stalking mode as I tracked the small pack of jackals. Why they were here was not hard to understand, the dead of the siege and the abandoned camps were the opportunities jackals reveled in.

Certainly this quartet had lived on the edges of the camps for some time now. The man in me had no quarrel with them but something in my core being began to lust for blood. With each new scent mark I could feel a different type of anger grow; instinctive anger different than the anger of men.

When I came across a quartet of jackals they were feeding on the corpse of one of the smaller creatures of the siege. The four together may have barely matched my mass but I was not concerned with a fair fight. The male briefly tried to make a stand before their claimed prize, all retreated with their lives.

My new tools needed more practice. Not a mortal victory but a victory none the less. I marked their meal with urine. But even the wolf in me found the claimed meal completely unappealing. The man in me found the pained gruesome face with glassed over eyes too close to human, the wolf in me felt insufficient hunger to settle for what remained. Perhaps if the liver had remained I might have claimed it.

Satisfied with my foray for the night I made for the citadel. The smells from the ship caught my attention and I briefly considered joining my friends. I remembered what they had set to doing and that I wanted little to do with it, so I continued on my path back to the peak of the citadel.

I passed a guard post and entered the citadel making my way to the temple. I found a spot on the floor near a fire pit and slept the balance of the night with full dreams some from the man in me and other of the growing wolf inside. When I stirred in the morning I arose with a satisfying stretch.
Session: Gloom - Wednesday, Sep 11 2013 from 8:00 PM to 11:00 PM
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