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By: Joe Hagen February 2012
The following Thursday morning was a beautiful day. The sun shone from a near cloudless sky and a breeze kept anyone outside feeling comfortable. Hikers laughed on the trails at Devil’s Den state park. A family of raccoons scavenged from an overfull trash can near the campgrounds. At Devil’s lake, a father and son unpacked their fishing gear while debating which of them was going to have the biggest catch of the day. Near the border of the park, in an untended area well away from the lake, campgrounds and trails, a very rough campsite was being used. At the edge of the site was a random collection of bones of various sizes along with two large sets of antlers and what looked disturbingly like a human femur. Dried, raw flesh stuck to a few of the bones but most were picked clean. There was little of the litter normally seen at a campsite. No empty packages, dirty paper plates, paper cups… A smoldering fire pit, releasing a thin line of smoke into the air, was surrounded by three tattered and filthy blankets. On one, Finn laid naked. With little body hair to conceal them, the muscles in his back, buttocks and legs were taut and well developed. Laying on his stomach, Finn rocked forward and back as he read from a tattered paperback book. His toes, braced against the bare earth, were filthy as were his legs, but there was no sign of the injury that had nearly cost him his foot under two weeks before. Small growls leaked from the corner of his mouth as his rocking grew slower and then quicker again until suddenly his head came up and he glared at a section of the surrounding woods. After a few moments the intensity left his eyes and they dropped back to his book. Seconds later he tossed the book aside mumbling, “Stupid girl. A cold blooded vampire over a hot blooded werewolf? Only in fiction!” Getting to his feet, Finn walked away from the blankets and his small pile of
clothes and pissed against a tree. The putrid stream splashed off the bark and onto his shins and feet but he didn’t react other than to look over his shoulder as Salvadore exited the section of woods he’d been eying previously. Salvadore's wide, muscular chest was bare but covered in thick, black hair as was his back. His arms and legs were just as muscular and covered as his chest. His face had not healed as well as Finn's leg. An angry, jagged, red scar ran from his temple to his eye socket and halfway across the bridge of his nose. His left eye was nothing more than a mucus colored orb which moved when his other eye moved but had no sign of a pupil. Dragging a deer by one of its rear legs, Salvadore didn’t release the animal until he was a few feet from what was left of their fire. When he dropped the animal’s leg, it kicked before the deer tried weakly and unsuccessfully to get to its feet. “It’s still alive,” Finn shouted over. Salvadore didn’t look back or respond until he’d sat down on one of the blankets. “Keeping it fresh,” he growled. “All of her legs are broken. She's not goin anywhere.” After a few weak bleats the doe lay quietly. Licking his lips, Finn chuckled. “You’re a real animal lover you are.” “That’s right. Raw or cooked, I love em.” Wearing only ragged cutoffs, Salvadore growled, “Put something on. You stink bad enough without my having to see, all, of you as well.” “Yez boss,” Finn replied as he stepped over to his clothes and pulled on an over-sized pair of khaki shorts. After fastening a belt tightly around his waist, Finn sat on his blanket again. “Cliff back yet?” Finn shook his head. “We cooking or going al dente tonight? “It's not broccoli you idiot,” Salvadore snarled before looking over at the deer which lay still but continued to pant. “Yeah, let’s cook tonight. Better stoke that fire.” “Sounds good to me,” Finn answered as he stood and began tending the fire pit.
As he worked, Finn considered his situation. He had been part of the pack that killed Autumn’s parents. He had also been the wolf who’d dragged off Autumn’s mother. Her leg clamped in his teeth, he’d felt her passing and had imagined the power he’d gain having a hunter’s soul to his credit. He’d expected to be leading his own pack by now. When his life left him a follower instead of a leader he’d been very disappointed. As the other wolves that’d been in that pack were hunted down and killed, he suspected the hunter’s lost life had allowed him to hold on to his own. He still blamed her for his shortcomings however. When he’d caught and recognized Karl’s family scent, he’d assumed Karl was a hunter and possibly after him and his current pack. He’d suggested as much to Salvadore who quickly decided the best defense was a lethal offense. They’d assumed the rest in the group were hunters as well. Moving in quickly they’d struck before any defense could be made. Alan’s use of the charmed, silver knife convinced them that they were right about the group being hunters. Finn's low status in the pack meant, despite his injury, he had to go deliver the ultimatum to the boy. If he returned, Salvadore, would have his revenge on the boy at the next moon. If he didn’t, Salvadore and Cliff would have gone for reinforcements and returned, as the other pack had on the night Autumn’s parents were killed. When Finn returned unharmed and told Salvadore that Alan didn’t know about silver and was shocked about werewolves, Salvadore smiled. “Doesn’t matter, now he knows. He’s dies too, and I get the kill!” “As long as he dies,” Cliff responded. “We can’t risk being discovered. That hunter was supposed to have a sister and witches are more dangerous than wizards. We need to know if his sister or any other witches are around and with that knife one probably is.” Blowing on the ashes and the kindling he’d collected, Finn snarled as a small flame rose among the larger pieces of wood he’d also added. Soon the flame grew and Finn sat back and waited for the larger pieces to catch. Glancing over at Salvadore he saw that his pack leader had fallen asleep. The pack leader got to hunt, Cliff got to go into town for supplies and Finn got to keep camp and do the cooking. He growled angrily but stopped when Salvadore shifted and frowned. “Damn hunter’s life didn’t get me anything but a longer life as the pack mutt, and I didn’t even get to kill the boy. I hope his sister is around so I can get some warm blood against my teeth.”
A couple of hours later, the deer was skinned and hanging over the fire. Salvadore continued to sleep until he and Finn heard a motor. Together they sat up, looked in the same direction and listened as the sound slowly grew. “It’s coming straight at us,” Finn snarled. “Just get ready,” Salvadore snarled back. It was almost five minutes before the burnt orange hood of a Ford Pinto poked through the brush and pulled onto the campsite. Both Salvadore and Finn’s jaw dropped when they saw Cliff sitting behind the wheel and a young man sitting in the passenger seat. Salvadore began to laugh as Cliff stopped the car and climbed out. Finn looked sullen as Salvadore stepped toward the car. “This is Rodney,” Cliff announced as the man climbed out of the car and nodded. The man was dressed in a black t-shirt with a skull and cross bones on the front. The words “I’m poison” were written beneath in blood red, Gothic lettering. Rodney pulled a pistol from his belt and spun it on his finger like a gunslinger from the old west. “He just helped me rob a quick shop.” Cliff continued, finishing his introduction. “Well, well. Haven’t you been clever,” Salvadore congratulated seeing the pile of supplies in the Pinto’s hatchback and the wad of bills in Cliff’s hand. He stepped up and looked down on Rodney who looked like the viper his shirt described despite being short and wire thin. Without checking to see what was in the car, Salvadore added. “It looks like we've got a two course meal tonight!” That evening, the three werewolves sat naked and splattered in blood around the fire. Salvadore licked his fingers and looked at the two carcasses before them. Most of Rodney and much of the doe were gone. “I love these mid phase picnics of yours Cliff.” “I aim to please pack master.” Salvadore chuckled and then cut his eyes toward Finn when he heard him snarl. “What?” “Nothing.” Finn answered too quickly. As Salvadore continued to stare Finn added. “I’m just thinking we’d better move the camp. The bones are getting pretty thick.” What he thought however was, Cliff gets to leave camp. He’s the only one with the opportunity to surprise Salvadore with human flesh. Again the power of a hunter's soul in limbo fails me. Salvadore nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Also I’ve got to find a home for, what was his name?”
“Rodney,” Cliff answered. “Yes,” Salvadore nodded and looked toward the head and spine that rested on the ground well away from the fire. “I’ll have to find a safe place for Rodney to rest. We wouldn’t want anyone to find him and lower my soul count.” Shifting into a new position, he continued. “He was a savory character, wasn’t he?” Looking toward Cliff, he added. “Not as savory as witch meat of course.” Nodding, Cliff announced, “Speaking of witches, I contacted Wilena.” “Yes,” Salvadore answered, showing no surprise. Finn’s expression soured however as he snapped, “What did you talk to her for?” Cliff’s eyes pulled tight as he shifted his gaze toward Finn. “Because we need her.” Finn’s hand unconsciously went to his thigh were the only permanent scar he’s ever received suddenly began to sting. “That old witch is dangerous...” “She’s one of us now…” Finn shook his head. “She killed several of our…” “She’s been reformed.” “A bite guarantees nothing. She killed three others after…” “She made a lot of enemies before she joined our side.” Finn growled and Cliff shook his head. “Not everyone was willing to forgive.” “Many still aren’t willing. She’s trying to form her own pack!” “Healthy competition,” Cliff muttered. “Not for the wolves she killed before and after being bitten,” Finn growled. “The body of the hunter we killed…” Cliff continued, pulling out of the argument Finn wanted to continue.”…has been in police custody since his death.” Salvadore's eyes narrowed as he wondered again as to what the authorities were investigating. Shrugging their suspicions off as good luck, he returned his attention to Cliff's words. “Their investigations have delayed the embalming, therefore his tissues are still of use. Wilena only needs a few pieces and she’ll be able to track his sister.”
Finn's scowl faded as he suddenly grew interested. “The sister,” he hissed. “Yes,” Cliff nodded. “She says with his eyes she can create a potion to locate her. With his heart she can predict the intents and plans of any working to free his soul.” As Finn gets to his feet, Cliff continues. “You can complete your revenge after all and, assuming his sister is the one that made that dagger, we can terminate another hunter.” “Healthy competition,” Finn hissed with a hungry snarl. Turning to Salvadore, Cliff adds, “She wants that knife the boy used on you.” Finn's expression mellowed and he diverted his eyes remembering Salvadore's anger when he returned from Alan’s without the knife. Salvadore's injured eye widened slightly and he smiled, showing his straight but still bloody teeth. “Then it’s time for me to make a visit.”
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