Janyu 10, 1043 P.W.D
The icy winter wind chipped its way through his heavy, down-filled jacket, and Wolfsbane silently rued the decision to forego purchasing a longer coat as the nineteen-year-old followed the rest of his team down the street to the inn. He and his colleagues—Ren Ascot, Helga Mir, Vale Haland, and Monty—were on their way to the next town in order to investigate a family which the locals claimed to be werewolves. If they were found to be only human, they would let them live. If they truly were werewolves, then they would be taken out.
Wolfsbane hated jobs like that, although he knew that there was really no choice. Werewolves were bloodthirsty monsters, and would murder humans as soon as the best opportunity presented itself. That was simply their nature…and it was his job as a werewolf hunter to prevent them from killing and punish them when they had.
They had arrived in town late that afternoon by train. Their true destination was still a day’s walk from here and with the bitter cold of the northern Asintian winter at its peak, staying at the inn for the night was their only option. A tiny part of him thanked the gods for the distance, but the rest of him simply wanted to get the job done as soon as possible and put it behind him.
As the five of them finally reached the inn, they entered quickly so as to let in as little cold air as possible while getting into the warm interior as soon as possible. “This cold is murder on my skin,” Helga moaned, flipping back her long, blonde hair as she smeared on a fresh layer of lip balm. “Just ten minutes out there and my lips are already feeling chapped! I hope those stupid northern hicks are grateful for the sacrifices we’re making coming out here to deal with those damn mutts!”
“You knew what this job was when you signed up for it,” Ren sighed. “Schlepping out to the sticks in the middle of winter is just part of it.”
“Oh, I know that,” she replied as they started to make their way to the reception desk. “It doesn’t make it suck any less. I mean, between jobs like this, and having to let the kid be second in command because it looks better,” she jerked her thumb at Wolfsbane for emphasis, as if he was a broken wagon instead of a human being, “I’m seriously thinking of retiring come fall. After all, I’m still hot enough to hook a husband, you know…”
Monty grinned at her like a crazed weasel—an expression only made creepier by the fact that his appearance reminded Wolfsbane of a bug wearing human skin—and said, “I’m always available for that, sweet thang!”
“I’d rather die than marry a troll like you,” Helga sneered in reply.
“Aw, Helga, that’s racist!” Vale said as they reached the desk.
At that, a familiar male voice mocked from behind them, “Huh. What an odd thing for a strict code-following werewolf hunter to say.”
Wolfsbane started at the sound of the voice, and tried desperately to suppress the smile that threatened to cross his face as he turned toward its source. There, standing just barely a foot away from them, with his hands ever-so-casually stowed in the pockets of his long winter coat, stood his uncle Falcon. His long, dark brown hair was still slung back in that familiar semi-neat ponytail, but had acquired several more grays at the temples since the last time they had met. However, Falcon was still in pique physical condition and still carried himself with that same confident swagger which usually marked a man in his twenties…not his early fifties.
“Uncle Falcon…hello,” Wolfsbane said, trying not to sound as happy as he was to see him. After all, even despite his uncle’s flippant disregard for the Werewolf Hunters’ Code and Father’s attempts at keeping them apart, Uncle Falcon was still one of Wolfsbane’s favorite people…someone he’d trust with his very life. But before he could get another word out, Ren eased his way between them.
“Well, well,” Ren sneered, “if it isn’t the greasy black stain on the Bendis family name. What are you doing here, you filthy wolf-lover?”
“What I always do, Ass-hat—whatever I damn well want,” Uncle Falcon replied, then added as he pushed Ren aside, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen my nephew. A little catching up is in order here.
“Hey, Wolfie. Looks like you’ve shot up a few inches since last time,” he said with a smile as he turned to Wolfsbane. “How’ve you been, kiddo?”
This time, Wolfsbane couldn’t help but smile. His uncle was the only one who still called him Wolfie, and his smile warmed him up more than the inn’s ambient heat ever could. Unfortunately, just as Wolfsbane was about to reply he was once again interrupted, this time by Helga.
“The runt was just fine until you showed up, you old fart,” she said in disgust. “Why don’t you get lost?”
“Actually, I would—” Wolfsbane began, but then Ren Interrupted.
“Be quiet, Bendis. That’s an order.” Ren said, putting himself between Wolfsbane and Falcon yet again.
“That’s an order,” Ren repeated, more sternly this time. Next, he turned to Falcon and said, “Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but I will not allow you to interfere with any of my subordinates, especially my second in command.”
“A little friendly small talk isn’t what I’d call ‘interfering,’” Falcon said, raising an eyebrow now as he spoke. “Standing between a man and his nephew on the other hand…”
As the two continued to argue (with occasional interjections from Helga), Wolfsbane felt absolutely powerless to do anything at all. On the one hand, Ren had ordered him to be quiet. Ren was very strict with him about following orders, and had slapped him around for disobeying him on a few occasions.
On the other hand, Wolfsbane did not want to stay quiet. He wanted to tell Ren to shut the Hells up and let him talk with his uncle. For that matter, he wanted to leave this team altogether and join up with Uncle Falcon at that very moment. He didn’t want to do this next job, which was sure to be more like slaughtering lambs than slaying monsters, just like the dozens of jobs exactly like it that he had done over the years. In fact, he wanted to get away from these people in general. He was beginning to feel sick of hiding his beef jerky and eating it secretly so that Ren would not punish him for going against his order to not eat meat as a snack. He was getting tired of living with Ren at his townhouse in Rider City between jobs and not being allowed to even look for a place of his own. Wolfsbane’s birthday was coming up in just another month, and he was not looking forward to yet another year celebrating it alone while the rest of his team mates went about it as if it was just another day. The first few times, he had held out hope that they were just planning a surprise party, but after the third year in a row with not so much as a “happy birthday” from any of them…he got the message.
But, all that Wolfsbane could bring himself to do as the argument finally ended was to look helplessly, pleadingly, into his uncle’s eyes. Uncle Falcon stared back, with a sad look in his eyes which seemed just a touch helpless in its own right. Then, he ruffled Wolfsbane’s hair, told him to take care of himself, and made his way over to the desk to check out.
Wolfsbane watched powerlessly as his uncle took his leave, and then stared at the inn’s front door for a while after that as Ren checked the team in. ‘I should have followed him…’ Wolfsbane thought sadly, his heart feeling like a cold lump of lead in his chest as he realized that his opportunity to escape this life had passed him by. ‘I should have spoken up for myself…I should have—’
“Bendis! Do you hear me!” Ren said, the sound of his voice and the pressure of his hand on Wolfsbane’s shoulder yanking him out of his thoughts. “I said—”
“Leave me alone!” Wolfsbane suddenly snapped, yanking his shoulder away and turning to glare at his commander.
“Excuse me? What did you just say?” Ren said, staring right back at him with a calm yet threatening expression on his face.
Without thinking, Wolfsbane clenched his fists, narrowed his eyes at Ren, and bared his teeth at him as an itchy tightness began to well up in his throat. At the same time, he could feel his canine teeth aching and itching and his entire body screaming to spring onto Ren and attack. He had not had that expression on his face or that feeling in his bones for a full second before Ren slapped him in the face. Hard. Hard enough to knock him off balance and down to his knees.
“Number one, don’t you ever speak to me that way again,” Ren said, glaring down at him angrily. “Number two, if I ever catch you baring your teeth like some wild animal again, you’ll get a punch in the face instead of a slap. Do you understand me, Bendis?”
Wolfsbane averted his eyes, rubbed his still stinging cheek, and replied quietly, “Yes, Sir.”
“What was that, Bendis?” Ren asked.
“I said, yes, Sir,” Wolfsbane replied again, at a more normal volume this time.
“Good. Now, pick yourself up and let’s go. We need to rest up for tomorrow.”
Wolfsbane quietly complied, pulling himself up off of the floor and picking up his dropped duffle bag. Then, he followed Ren and the others up the stairs to their rooms. He needed to calm down. He needed to rest. Tomorrow would be a longer day than this.
Falcon boarded the train that evening still pissed off at himself and full of regret. He knew he should have done more back at the inn. He’d seen the way that Ren and the rest treated Wolfsbane—like he wasn’t really there, like a piece of luggage instead of a human being. He’d seen the look in the kid’s eyes too—that sad, pathetic look, like a little puppy left out in the winter snow, begging to be taken in. He knew damn well that the kid wasn’t happy!
But, he couldn’t take Wolfsbane with him. Not that he was afraid of Ass-hat and his gang of thugs, or his younger brother Hawk. No. There were just things that he wasn’t ready to reveal…Scratch that—that he was afraid to reveal to his nephew. Secret things. If he took Wolfie with him, then Falcon would have no choice but to let him in on those things.
“You damn chicken-shit!” Falcon sighed heavily as he plopped down in the plush velvet chair in his Luxury Class cabin. Hey, he liked to travel in style. “You should have taken him with you!”
He sighed once again as he shifted in his chair to get a better look out the window at the passing scenery…and that’s when he felt it, a hard object in his left inner coat pocket. He tisked, took the foot-long wooden box out, and stared at it half in disbelief and half in sadness. ‘And to top it all off, I forgot to give him his birthday present,’ Falcon thought, shaking his head. ‘Hopefully, I’ll have another chance later. For now, though, I guess the gift of a missing family of alleged werewolves is going to have to do…’
Falcon smirked to himself mischievously, remembering how he had strolled into town like he was going to take them all down, only to sneak them all onto the midnight train to Lorton under cover of darkness. Ren, Helga, Vale, and Monty would surely be pissed when they found out a hunter had already been through and taken care of the problem, and Wolfsbane would be spared from having to kill any innocent people…this time, at least. For now, that would have to do.
Well, that does it for this week, folks. I’m taking a short hiatus from the blog for the next two or three weeks to de-stress, replenish my creative juices, and spend more time working on the third book, Wolfie Star-Runner’s Amazing Voyage South. But, don’t worry, I’ll be back. Until then, feel free to archive binge around here (I’m sure that you new readers have a lot of material to catch up on ;D), check out The Rebirth and Awakening of Wolfie Star-Runner and Wolfie Star-Runner Plays with Hellfire on Amazon (available on all international versions of the site, print and Kindle ebook editions available), check my Twitter page for updates, and learn about me as a person in a flurry of images on Pintrest. You can also take a peek at my fan works page if you’re curious about what my imagination can do with established concepts and characters (or, if you really need a good animation-or-game-ready Mega Man 8-style Proto Man sprite sheet). And, as always, if you like this blog or my books, share them with your friends!