“If you cannot bite, never show your teeth.”
-Old Nordic Saying
Saren needled another stitch into Joseph’s back where Irina had clawed him. They had retreated back to Saren’s living room to sew themselves up and lick their wounds. Joseph was wincing in pain as Saren half lectured half ranted to him and the team while stitching him up.
“What we saw was a proving,” She continued her needlework, not noticing or ignoring the obvious pain her teammate was in, “Aspirants are shoved in a room, told to kill each other, and the one winner is made into a werewolf by the supervising-,”
“Words words words!” Israel suddenly shouted “What’s our next move?”
Saren glared at him as she tied off the stitch. She’d done the same style of stitch hundreds of times.
“If you’d have let me finish I would have said that there’s a pack in the area. We need to find it and get rid of it. Lucky for us a typical pack only consists of about five or six-ish actual wolves, the rest being cronies or pets. Hopefully Andre is still offering that deal on pelt trade ins. That and the standard fee for dead wolves-” she trailed off into mutters about finances and profit.
Israel stood up and went to the kitchen, leaving Saren to ponder just how much profit she would get and how little her team would get. He wrung his hands, wincing as he remembered his recently set wrist bones.
“Dude,” Tristan walked behind him “You okay man?”
“I’m fine,” Israel sat on one of the breakfast nook chairs “No, no I’m not. Fucking shit man, why does it take until we’ve almost been killed by something for Saren to tell us feth all about it? How long until one of us gets killed by fucking Bigfoot and THEN Saren tell us how to kill it?”
“I dunno man,” Tristan leaned against the wall and rubbed one of the many bruises he’d gained, “I get what you mean, it makes me mad too. You remember that vampire I shanked? Saren never actually told us how to kill a vampire. I was just going off friggin’ Dracula and shit. If that wouldn’t have worked, we’d be thick red paste back at that farm,”
“Augh! This is bullshit,” Israel threw his head back into his hands, “You know what we should do? Go back in there and demand full access to her library or information trove or newsletter or whatever,”
“Yeah,” Tristan’s eyes lit up, “And then she’ll shoot us in the face and spare us the pain of being disemboweled by werewolves. That’s a great idea,”
“Eh, prick,” Israel slumped into his seat
“You’re right though,” Tristan opened up Saren’s fridge and grabbed a pair of sodas, “We should talk to her and get this shit done right. We should be the badass anti-heroes not the naïve protagonists,”
Israel lightly smiled as his friend gave him a soda
“Damn fething straight we should be,” he gulped his drink, “At least, *burp* at least we’re having fun,”
“Amen,” Tristan sat down on the other side of the table, “Man, how did we even get into this shit?”
“Altruism my friend,” Israel half slurred out of exhaustion “The kinda altruism that make us help a girl getting beat up by assholes. Then said girl becomes our friend and puts us in all these crazy scenarios where we could die, literally, at any time.” He chugged what remained of his drink “I am so fucking glad we met Saren,”
“Fuck does altruism mean?” Tristan asked
“It means charity you putz,” Israel retorted
“They’re talking about me,” Saren said as she taped down a bandage on Joseph’s shoulder, “I just know it,” she sighed, “I fucked up,” Joseph lightly nodded, only half paying attention, as he put his shirt back on. “Dammit. You guys almost died because I felt like acting like the big dog, kicking the door down and calling out a bunch of lunatics who were about to kill each other,” A small cardboard box that the gauze came in lightly hit the side of her head.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” Joseph said standing up “When we first met you were a fucking beast, getting into fights with skinheads, taking us into the woods to play with sharp things, and teaching us all the most effective ways to kill things with soup spoons. The fuck happened to that Saren? That Saren was cool. That Saren didn’t cry like a bitch when things get a little scraped up,”
“Hey, fuck you,” Saren got into his face, “Forgive me for giving a damn about the only living friends I have, and not wanting to have to attend their funerals!”
“Fuck me? Fuck you,” Joseph growled out, “Thank you for throwing us into the meat grinder and then feeling bad about it,”
Saren snapped her arm and punched joseph in the cheek, sending him back into his chair. Saren grabbed his jaw and made him look up at her.
“Yeah I feel bad. I feel bad because I care about all of you, you dumb fuck,” her voice lost any trace of mirth she had left for the evening, “I brought you all into this, everything that happens to you is on my head, my fault,” her grip shifted to his neck “I feel bad because I would never forgive myself if you got hurt on my watch. Do you understand?”
“Yeah,” Joseph snarled, “Yeah, I got you,”
“Splendid,” Saren’s voice became light and happy again as she let Joseph’s neck go, “Go get the bums, tell them they’re staying the night and we’re hitting the pack in the morning,”
Joseph did as he was told with a grin on his face. The Saren he liked was back and he was happy with it.
“Guys, wake up!” Tristan called out from the top of the stairs,
He and the others were sleeping in Saren’s basement on some cots she had in storage. Tristan woke up to use the bathroom and noticed that- “Saren’s gone!”
Israel and Joseph bolted up, swearing to themselves as they rushed to put their gear on.
“Fucking bullshit lying ass-,” Joseph stopped himself before he got carried away
Israel checked his phone for the time. It was only about an hour after they went to sleep.
“She waited all of one fucking hour before abandoning us,” Israel swore as he kicked his cot, he then swore as the pain of kicking a metal cot with no shoes hit him. “Fucking perfect,”
They loaded their guns, grabbed their swords and got in Joseph’s car.
“Wait a minute,” Joseph said, “Where the fuck are we going? We don’t exactly have a GPS implant in her,”
“The canyon,” Israel responded, “Werewolves prefer the wild. The woods and shit like that. It’s the closest, most defensive place that fits the criteria,” Tristan starred at his friend
“How the hell do you know that?” Israel’s response was to smile and hold up a faded leather bound book with ‘Werebeasts’ printed on the cover.
“I found it rooting around in Saren’s basement,” he said through his smile
“Right,” Joseph turned the key in the ignition, “The canyon then,”
Saren crept through the snow, sword in one hand, pistol in the other. After arriving in the canyon she immediately spotted a light trail of blood and boot prints, presumably left by Irina, and followed it. This is what she lived for, the hunt. Knowing her foe and going to meet them. She grinned to herself as she put a small handful of snow in her mouth to mask her breath, completing the ensemble of camouflage she was wearing, a white coat and snow-pants.
There were totems hung in the trees. Rotten small animals, miscellaneous bones from deer, humans or whatever the pack had eaten and kept the bones of made up the totems. They marked the territory and hunting grounds of the pack, though it was rare that such borders were respected.
Saren wrung out her sword hand, slightly nervous about her choice of weapon. Andre forged his weapons with an amount of silver smelted into the metal, not enough to instantly kill things like pure silver can, but enough to be able to do damage. But after the amount of times Irina was stabbed and did not die, Saren had her doubts on the lethality of the amount in Andre’s wares.
Saren diverged from the trail, hoping to swing around and flank her quarry. When she heard loud talking and growling she knew her instincts were right. She began crawling in the snow, staying as low as she could as she grew closer. The voices got clearer and clearer the closer she got, after some time in the snow she could hear what was being said
“-told you to not go alone,” a young male voice. Saren made a mental note of at least two wolves, Irina and the new one.
“Fuck off,” Irina herself
“Quiet, both of you,” grumbled a low and heavy voice. Saren knew from experience that this must be the alpha. No one else gives orders in the pack. “You both whine like pups fresh off the teat. Irina’s failure came from being outnumbered by a skilled hunter and some of his untrained underlings,”
Saren smiled to herself when she heard ‘skilled hunter’ but was confused by the ‘his’.
“Fucker with the claymore must have been trained by some bigshot to have his own brood,” Saren made another mental note about a fourth member as she came to a realization. They thought she was a newbie and Joseph was the veteran who taught them everything. She decided she hated these wolves more than she usually hates things.
“It wasn’t a claymore, it was a zweihander,” Irina pointed out
“Fuck is the difference?” the young one again.
“I know swords, dumbass,” Saren began to ignore the conversation as she got close enough to see them. More importantly, she saw that one was leaning against a tree with a split down the middle, giving her a clear shot at the back of his head.
“Whatever, it’s just a sword,” it was the young one, who was also the leaner. Irina made an audible sound of disgust, “But still, who walks in with a bunch of handguns and guns dudes down? What kinda Al Capone shit is that? Guy has to be half crazy to-,” Saren permanently shut him up, curtesy of her sword going through the back of his neck and out his mouth, also assuaging her doubts on the efficiency of her sword.
Saren let the body slide off her sword as she casually walked out from behind the tree. She saw all the people she heard, five werewolves in total, now four. One never said a word. They shared the aesthetic of the aspirants from before.
“Listen up skinheads!” Saren shouted, “Either line up or come at me all at once! I don’t care which,” They were silent, either in shock from their comrade getting stabbed in the back of the face or from awe in that no one would try anything as stupid as calling out a bunch of angry werewolves. “Hey!” Saren continued shouting, “Are you deaf or something?!” They still didn’t move or say a word.
Suddenly, Saren heard a low grumbling laugh, slowly getting louder. It was the alpha. Saren finally got a good look at him. He was massive with a trimmed buzz cut, standing a head taller over a man who stands a head taller than everyone, wide as a double door, and all of it scarred muscle. Saren noticed that his grey-blue eyes were almost identical to hers before shaking thoughts from her head that weren’t ‘how to most effectively kill these people,’ this was no time for pointless trivia.
“You,” he said casually walking up to Saren, “Are either stupid, brave, or both,”
“Both,” Saren responded tightening her grip on her sword, “In all likelihood,”
He smiled, if twisting the ugly patchwork of scars that formed his face counted as a smile.
“Excellent. Excellent! A proper battle, at long last!” He started laughing as he spoke, “A good fight and an even better death, for one of us at least,”
“Then let’s go!” Saren pointed her sword at him, “Stop talking so we can kill each other,”
“No,” He said, untwisting his smile, “Our audience is not large enough,” he turned his back and started walking away, “Your master and comrades should be arriving shortly. Then, we will face each other,”
“I’m the one who taught them you idiot!” Saren lunged forward and swung her sword, missing the alpha as he dodged. She kept swinging, punctuating each swing with a shout, “I. Taught. Them!”
She was enraged, not thinking, not paying attention to the other pack members, or to the fourth pack member that swung a sledgehammer at her leg, connecting with her knee-joint and bending her leg around the hammerhead. Saren screamed as she fell into the snow, the overwhelming pain in her leg made her mind go blank with shock and pain.
“Idiot!” The alpha grabbed his subordinate by the face and slammed his head into the ground. The snow around the werewolf’s head began to turn red as the alpha grabbed Saren’s sword, looking comically undersized in his hand, and ran him through. He stared down at Saren’s writhing form with a look of disappointment and frustration. “Our fight would have been glorious,” He put the tip of Saren’s sword to her neck, “I am almost sad that it will now never happen,”
Saren struggled to stay conscious through the alpha’s speech. She regretted coming out on her own, stubbornly ignoring and abandoning her friends. She grabbed the tip of her sword and began vigorously shaking it, slicing her hand and wrestling it out of the alpha’s hand. Her vision began fading as she grabbed onto the tree behind her, smearing it with blood from her carved hand, ignoring every urge to lie down and pass out. She stressed every muscle that would still move for her to prop herself up against the tree and point her sword at the werewolves.
“Which one of you wants to die next,” She groaned.