Die Toten Wald was not the place one would normally raise a family. Haunted and cursed, a source of evil and monsters, the woods divided the country. Untameable and ancient, no sane man made it home.
But die Toten Dorf was a hardy village, and the last stop before entering the western edge of the black forest. Staring at the soaring palisade, Bardulf narrowed his eyes.
Well defended. The ground kept clear between wall and forest. Flat land. They cannot be snuck up on. He adjusted his pack, and followed a merchant train through the heavy gate.
Rain clouds gathered overhead, and Bardulf scented the wind. The downpour wouldn’t come until after mitternacht. Autumn rains should keep the guards near fire. Plodding to the center of the village, he scanned the battlements and found only one set of stairs up to the walkway.
The wulfen growled under his breath, catching a whiff of his kinswoman. Adulfa was here, in wolf form, her scent nearly covered by the odor of human village. He would free her, and the clan would plan revenge.
Die Toten Dorf was self-contained and set up to service travelers. The inn dominated a third of the space, stables and a blacksmith and several other service buildings surrounding it. The populace were all rugged and sullen, hardened by generations of living near the haunted forest. Bardulf respected their survival skills, but loathed them for capturing his clanmate.
Her scent grew stronger, and he sought Adulfa. She limped into view, and rage filled his heart.
The once proud wulfen hung her muzzled head, fur matted and muddy, eyes dull, tail tucked to her belly. Scars covered her hide, the most notable being her missing right leg.
Bright pink skin told of recent amputation. Clean, with no signs of infection, it only hobbled the wold. But in any other form, Adulfa would be a cripple, unable to hunt, or walk, or do anything without assistance.
Restraint slipped, and Bardulf went into a frenzy. He dropped his pack, snarling. The change washed through him, muscles growing, bones strengthening, claws sprouting. Horses panicked, and the villagers were startled.
Bardulf howled, lifting his elongated snout to the sky. Enhanced senses picked up the twang of several crossbows, and he rolled forward. Bolts dug into the muddy ground, narrowly missing the wulfen.
He sensed the tingle of silver and cursed mentally. Of course the people who live so near the dangerous Toten Wald would have silver ammo.
Villagers scattered as he charged the child holding Adulfa’s leash. The indignity of her situation fuelled his rage. Slaying a human child meant nothing to him; they were all guilty in his eyes. Everyone in die Toten Dorf would fall to him.
The blacksmith stepped forward, defending the child. Bardulf was fast, but the brawny human was faster. The massive hammer swung in a blur, smashing the wulfen in the face. Teeth and bones snapped, and Bardulf’s momentum shifted. He lost his balance, and tumbled to the ground.
Guards rushed forward, the rest of the villagers surrounding him. Bardulf tried to rise, but was pummeled and driven back to his knees. He lashed out, claws finding flesh, but his assailants would not stop.
Soon he was bound in silver chains, helpless and whimpering. Adulfa met his eyes, as broken and pitiful as he. How had they been brought so low?
“Looks like we got ourselves another dog.” The booming voice belonged to a massive man in a guard’s uniform with an orc’s face. Horses whickered as the merchants calmed them, but the village was otherwise quiet. “And he’s a big ‘un. Dangerous looking.” Bardulf attempted to snarl through broken teeth.
Bloody orcs, mingling with human blood. No wonder they can live here in safety. The wulfen struggled to breathe, desperate to fight their ancient enemies.
An elderly woman with green skin shuffled through the crowd, a thick chain in her hands. “We know how to settle his type. Yes we do.” Magic lit her eyes, and she cackled.
Bardulf was unable to fight as she slipped the charmed metal around his neck. Magic settled around his heart, and he blacked out. The wulfen wondered if those who came after would be as easily captured.
Footnote: April Fools! As you can tell from the title, I didn’t write this story. 🙂 Today’s post was part of The Great April Fools Day #FridayFlash Blog Swap organized by Tony Noland. The other dozens of stories swapping about can be found at Tony’s site Landless.
My story for this week can be found at Raven’s blog – http://ravencorinncarluk.blogspot.com