I woke up late in the morning. I don't often do that, but that day I did. Laraida made some crack about it, and I whacked her upside the head. The result was a wrestling match which ended in me getting pinned. As you can see, I'm not my best in the morning. When both of us are at our best, it's a draw.
Laraida's a good wife. She's got a mind and she speaks it, too.
I got up out of bed. The kids were up, all 6 of them. Shtaragk, my oldest son, and Rolja, his twin sister, were splitting apples by throwing a hatchet at them from 7 feet away. Their aim was improving every week. The others were scrapping with each other, and the result was a view that warmed my heart. I'm not being sarcastic, either. Tough life gives you tough kids, and "tough" was exactly how I liked my family.
Laraida served some of her special beer to me for breakfast. Good stuff, really. She sat down across from me. "King Nightskar's got some news. They've found a new cove somewhere's. Nightskar's looking into using it."
"So get some ships and take it."
"It ain't that easy, Loroch. Bunch of goodbeasts are camped there. And you know how it is with them sops. Stomp on one, and a dozen come to the funeral."
I laughed. "Then I guess the trick is, leave no-one to hold a funeral! I'll go check this out."
King Nightskar is one of the most evil-looking wolves I've ever seen. Absolutely black from head to foot, with some nasty scars. And his looks make him seem a lot nicer than he actually is. I'd give my soul to be like him. I know the next son I have will be named after my lord.
But I digress.
I went up to King Nightskar, and volunteered for the mission. He agreed that I could go. I went back to my quarters and got ready. I looked around, and said to Laraida "Maybe after this mission I can get the King to get us a bigger room. This place is kinda crowded."
"Tell me about it." she agreed.
I hoisted my pack on my shoulder, gave Shtaragk a friendly punch, and left.
I have my own boat. It's sort of an out-rigger canoe with a sail. It's perfect for a solo mission. I sailed north from the island, heading for this new cove. I didn't have a map, but I didn't need one. I've moved quite often, and I'm a good navigator. It was night, so I didn't have to worry about finding the cove. All I had to do was follow the campfires.
Campfires. So someone was there. The question was, whom?
I slipped closer. It was then that I realized my footpaw was getting wet. Time to fix the boat again.
Wait. Now, there was an idea...
I slipped a little away from the cove. I hid my pack in a hole in the ground. I can always find it by smell, anyways, because of an herb I keep in there. After hiding my pack, I slipped up to the cove. They were goodbeasts, all right. I picked up a rock, headed to my boat and sailed to the cove.
When I was close enough, I smashed out the bottom of the canoe. It sunk like a rock, and I was in the drink. The goodbeasts heard my calls for help. One, a big otter, came and rescued me.
He took me to the shore, where I was welcomed. A trusting bunch. Made me sick, but I hide that kind of thing rather well.
They fed me. Seasons, HOW do they live on salad? The fish was nice. I would have preferred a pigeon, but it wasn't exactly time to say that. I'd have to horrify them later.
Their music was all la-dee-da and happiness. I could see why Nightskar didn't want them around. What I couldn't see was why this mission was dangerous.
I was wondering what could be so tough about this mission, until I looked at my rescuer. The otter who'd hauled my tail out the sea was watching my every move. He didn't trust me further than he could throw me. I sat by the fireplace, and watched back. He was keeping on the opposite side of the fire, so I really couldn't see him. I'd have to get a look at him in the morning
The next day was uneventful, and I learned the rules of the settlement. The leader of the cove enforced strict discipline, but the punishments weren't draconian. We had to be on time for meals, eat the courses in the manner they were served, be up at a certain time...
The list went on. I finally got a good look at my rescuer. Big guy, yeah. He'd put a badger to shame. And, considering the fact that he didn't trust me at all, probably had brains to match his brawn. With him around, I'd have to be careful. Things were looking up. I hate a boring mission.
One little mousemaid got a gash on her arm from something. While the others were tending to her, I volunteered to go get more herbs. Somewhat to my dismay, the otter was assigned to go with me. So much for getting my pack. I agreed to let him go with me. I tried to talk with him, but you couldn't pry his mouth open with a crowbar. I collected the herbs they needed for healing, and very little else. We approached a certain shaded beach. I was right, my pack was here. But there was no use trying to retrieve it, not with that shadow they gave me. We walked back to the camp.
I found out that the otter's name was Longridge. I knew that name, but I wasn't going to speak up. He and I knew each other anyways, and it wasn't friendly.
The next few days, I explored the cove. Always with that big otter by my side. It wasn't a campsite, more like a small village. Nightskar would love this place I thought. That meeting hall would be a nice place for a tavern. Naaaah... too flimsy. Taverns can get pretty rough.
I asked if I could go get some more herbs and leaves. Again, they sent that otter with me. The leader of the place was adamant that I would get lost. I shrugged, and accepted the offer of the guide.
Once in the forest, I was finding herbs galore. I knew of a lot of medicines, poultices, and brews of that sort. I also knew a lot of poisons, drugs, and brews of that sort. It was the latter bit I was looking for. Suddenly, I made my getaway. I put on my climbing claws, and quickly climbed up a tree. The otter, of course, couldn't follow me. I went a short way, then dropped to the ground. Perfect. My pack. I retrieved it, and went back to Longridge. "Guess what! I found my pack on the shore. Must've washed up." He didn't say anything.
Back at the camp, the others congratulated me on my find. I smiled, then went back to the tent they'd loaned me. Now, I could start my work. A little here, a tad there, a few poisons all around. There are some poisons (which are my favorite) that are two-part. Take one or the other, and you're fine. Take both, and you're worm food. I concentrated on these. I could eat of these poisoned foods, and be absolutely fine. But breakfast was going to be an interesting affair. Y'see, the Part one of my favorite poison was in the Main course. Part Two was in the dessert. And in the appetizers was a little something that made everyone want to stuff themselves silly. Since the poisons took time to react, everyone would be stuffing there face with sweets by the time anyone knew anything was wrong. And to miss the drug, all I had to do was sleep in, and miss the first part of breakfast.
The leader wasn't too pleased, and I had to find my own breakfast elsewhere. Suited me fine.
It was a delightfully dark day. Half the camp whimpered off to bed with stomach aches, the rest couldn't move. That afternoon, everyone was decidedly ill. By the next morning, I was pretty much alone. I grabbed some food out of my pack and ate it. Too easy I thought. Then I heard the footfall outside my door. Now who in tarnation was still alive?
Longridge. I should have guessed. He was just standing there, silent. Silent? Actually, mute would be a better term. Mute, the way I left him almost a year ago. "Let's dance, bozo," I said to myself. Hunting each other throughout the camp? Why not? It would add zing to this. I slipped out the back door, then threw a knife that clipped his ear, letting him know I was still around. He yanked the knife out of the wall it had stuck in, and came after me. The hunt was on.
Longridge came after me, but I ducked into the meeting hall. Corpses were everywhere. The big galoot hadn't buried them yet.
I hid behind the door, ready to stab him. He came through another door, and attacked. As he pounced on me, I rolled back. Longridge went flying right through the door, which hadn't been open. I went outside, but he was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, something warned me to duck, and I did. A dagger flew through the space my head had occupied. I grabbed the dagger, and yowled as a second nicked my leg. I grabbed it and went looking for him.
We must have traded daggers dozens of times that day. Always sniping at each other. I didn't know why, but I was enjoying it. One wrong move and I was dead. Made me feel good to be alive. Suddenly, I had a clear shot at him. I whipped my dagger at him, and...
A clink sounded as both our daggers collided in mid-air and landed, inches apart. The toying was over. Now, the fight was about to begin. We slowly approached our daggers, eyeing each other. About five feet away from our daggers we stopped, then started to circle each other. As one, we both went for the daggers. I caught one, he got the other. I pounced on him, slashing at his chest. He caught me in the side with his dagger. We rolled over and over, slashing, tearing, trying to get a good stab in.
A knife fight is never pretty, and I'm partial to ugly fights. This was the best I'd ever been in.
I ended up straddling him, and I was about to slash his throat when he grabbed my wrist and slashed at mine. I grabbed his wrist, and there we were, unable to use our daggers. But there are some things a wolf will do that no otter will, and that was his downfall. I ripped his throat out with my teeth. As a final insult, I spat the bloody wad of flesh into his face. He gave one last gurgle and died.
He'd been a good opponent, and I could take pride in that fight. I went to my pack and got my skinning knife. His hide would make a great cape.
After skinning the otter, I went down to the brook, and washed myself. There were a couple carcasses there, but I didn't mind. I'm not queasy, in case you didn't notice.
I then shot down a couple of wood pigeons, and fried them. I went back to the meeting hall, and sat at the head seat. Why not? I was the only one living there. Emphasis on "only one living."
I ate the pigeons, right off the leader's plate. I didn't wash up.
After eating, I looked around the settlement. Hmm..., cabins were in good shape, the meeting hall was fine, and there was a nice ship in the harbour. I kept thinking about what to do with the corpses. I figured I'd dump them into the sea when I left. Better for their friends to wonder what had happened than for them to know. Rounding all the campers was hard work. I'd just finished, when I heard crying. I went into one of the cabins, and found a baby wolf there. Still wet behind the ears, couldn't be a day old. I'd put my hand on my dagger when another thought crossed my mind.
There were worse things to do with a goodbeast than kill them. Such as, remolding their children in your own image. This kid was mine.
I sailed away with my gruesome cargo. A decent distance from the island, I dumped the lot overboard, and watched them sink. The pup was playing with one of my daggers. I grinned to myself as I watched him. He would be my son, in many ways.
Back at Moonshadow Island, I made my report to King Nightskar. I told him what I intended to do with the pup, and he grinned. Wolfishly. (Sorry I couldn't resist). Then I met up with Laraida, and showed her the pup. She laughed when I told her of his origins.
"Oh, by the way, I have wonderful news for YOU, husband." I'd seen that look in her eyes before. Nightskar was REALLY going to have to expand our quarters.