The Wolf Behind the Sun’, Johann Carlisle

Artwork by Djibril

The Wolf

 [ Howling wolf: image (cc) 2005 Djibril ] I am cold and empty; everything is torpid and listless as the most depressing of days, when the bitterest hunger and the promise of food is not enough to incite me to move. The irony is that even had I the motivation to move I could not now: I am as cold and powerless as a corpse. It is not passion that I lack, it is life.

The last time I moved myself was the night I met the sorcerer. I was hunting in the dark woods close to my home on an icy and hungry winter night. Glacial conditions had made prey thin on the ground, and I was forced to go close to the edges of the forest, closer to the realms of humankind than I normally dared. A hollow cold in my belly made me desperate; I would chase any prey that I spotted.

I became aware of a man in the woods, a hunter who seemed to be stalking the same prey as I. I was unconcerned: what human was ever as strong a hunter as I? The smell of fear excites me as much as blood feeds my body. We do not much enjoy the taste of human flesh, but their fear is the sweetest of all. People hereabouts had long learnt to fear the big, black, man-killing wolf that I was.

But this man was a sorcerer and he did not fear me; he was not after the same prey as I, but was hunting me. This was his hunt and I did not kill him. He stripped the coarse skin from my quivering flesh, and ate my still-beating heart. My entrails, flesh and bones he left for the scavengers. I do not sleep; I hang upon the wall of his tent. My hunger has never abated, but as I have no energy I shall never eat.

The Spy

I let my heavy cloak flap behind me in the wind; it was not a cold night but I was wearing a long woollen shirt and my sword strapped at my shoulder. A cap of weasel's fur sat snugly on my head: I felt warm and secure, although I had on no metal armour. I was only escorting my father, the herald, to the tent of General Hector, but I felt ready for action.

We entered the tent, and my father bowed respectfully to the general; I stood in the background, observing, and my failure to show homage went unnoticed. Hector was wearing only a cloak on this warm night, and it was the first time I had seen our great commander naked. His body was strong, beautiful, masculine and every inch a warrior, but the hero who led our armies was clad in gleaming armour and borne on a great chariot. He looked so weak to me now; it was distressing to know that under the armour our indomitable leader was soft, mortal flesh.

"How are my services required at this time of night?" my father asked; he was concerned that this was an unusual hour for a herald to be called.

"Go to the tent of General Sarpedon of the Lycians," Hector replied. "Tell him to muster his most valiant officers and send them to me: I need a volunteer for a desperate mission. Then go and tell the same to General Aineias of Dardania, Pandaros of the Zeleans, Adrestos of..."

"What is the desperate mission?" I asked boldly, stepping out of the shadows as I interrupted the general's tedious catalogue.

"Who are you?" the mighty Prince Hector frowned, aware of my presence for the first time.

"This is my son Dolon," my father said quickly and nervously. An officer, a big man who looked familiar but I could not have named, spoke up.

"I saw him fight opposite the Phthians before that army withdrew, my lord," this man said. "He acquitted himself like a hero; I believe he had it in mind to face their immortal prince, if Fate would allow it."

"He would have died like a fool," another officer muttered.

"I would take the chance, if you would not," I said boldly, meeting the man's gaze.

"The mission is this," Hector said, heading off the confrontation. "I want a man to enter the enemy camp this night and learn if there are any plans to move against us tomorrow. We are too close to victory to take any chances."

"What would be my reward if I were to undertake this mission?" I asked, ignoring my father's discomfort.

"What would you ask?" Hector said.

"The magical horses of the Prince of Phthia," I replied without hesitation, holding my breath. I had longed to get my hands on those beasts as soon as I learnt of their existence.

"If you return to me with the news I seek," Hector said, pleased with my boldness, "those horses shall be yours when we defeat the Achaians." He made a ritual gesture: "May the Sunlord protect you." This prayer was echoed by several devout voices; they all felt how much I needed his assistance.

So my father went away alone, and I returned to my tent to equip for this desperate mission. As I left the general's tent, I overheard the big officer say something about the newcomer, King Rhesos of Thrace.

The Wolf

 [ Black pelt: image (cc) 2005 Djibril ] The sorcerer returns to me, takes me in his arms, caresses my skin gently and tenderly. He mutters words to me in his human tongue, his voice exuding love, intimacy and bonding. His passion seems genuine, but his words mean nothing to me; my consciousness is barely stirred by his attention. He can do nothing more to me now; he can not hurt the tanned hide of a black wolf. Laying me carefully beside him on the bedding, he disrobes and lies naked beside me, skin against skin, hair against hair.

His flesh is hard, his skin tingles, his breaths are short and excited. I can smell his juices start to flow as he presses against me. As his smooth chest rubs my coarse fur his nipples are proud and erect. He gasps softly, kissing my hard teeth. His strong thighs crush my hindquarters. His flesh throbs as hard, fragrant genitals, full of blood, respond to the passion in his breast. Groaning again, he rolls over so I am on top of him. I start to feel the most perverse lust I have ever known.

No stinking bitch in heat ever aroused me like this; never was the bleeding meat of a gentle doe so desirable; never did the sick fear of a hunted human inspire bloodlust this violent. For the first time in so many moons since I was killed, I am, I feel, I move, and I live. Bonding this closely with the sorcerer I know his fears, his thoughts, his wants, ambitions, insecurities and his greed. Then we both forget them all. The blood is all, life is all, lust is all. We are one.

The Werewolf

I am one.

Flying from the tent, my preternatural muscles carry me effortlessly out of the Trojan camp, past the Lycian sentries unnoticed. I recognise the good portent of this: our allies the Lycians are a Wolf-Totem people. A lone figure is picking among the dead of yesterday's battlefield; a corpse robber pillaging the helpless bodies of their petty valuables. A flash of contemptuous anger is soon flooded by my furious desire for his blood. Immediately I am upon him and he can do nothing but utter a pitiful, strangled cry.

His throat is within my jaws; flesh as soft as water is rent between my teeth. My claws tear his body. Limbs fall to the bloody earth. Empty eyes stare as his head rolls and I drink the blood from his struggling heart.

He is dead and I am still hungry. I press on toward the enemy camp. Fires are burning and many men seem to be awake, but the fall of a lone sentry marks my passing. I barely pause, leaving his dismembered body unrecognisable behind me. My hunger is still vicious and consuming, but the prudence of my human side holds it in check.

 [ The attack: image (cc) 2005 Djibril ] Slinking between the tents like a living shadow, I can pass within inches of a vigilant Achaian, and remain unseen. Listening always, attentive for any eager messenger or important officer, any quiet council or discreet word passed in the foreign tongue of these filthy invaders. From a shadow I recognise a general pass me, followed by four noble soldiers. This is the commander of the Kephallenians, a man I hate more than Dark Death himself, and fear as a prudent beast is wary of humans.

With a ravenous cry I spring from the shadows and take out the throat of the nearest soldier. Dark blood sprays and taints the whole scene scarlet. The next man screams as my jaws close loudly, crunching his skull. As a third life pours blood into my throat, I see the face of my enemy glowing red in the light of a hot fire. His eyes are hard but unafraid; I feel that I have not surprised this poisonous, dangerous man. He is at the heart of whatever mischief is planned this night.

The last soldier is still between us when my enemy raises his arms and cries out; we are surrounded by warriors. He knew I was here; he knows who I am. I devour the heart of the first man to stand before me, splash the blood of another all over the ground. The fire sizzles and spews sparks as another smitten assailant falls onto it, dead too soon to cry at the pain. But my enemy is backing away. Desperate men stand between us.

A stabbing-spear's sharp point pierces my pelt. I am not hurt but human instinct makes me back away. I dodge another thrust, taste the bitter blood of the over-keen man behind it. A circle of wooden spears desperately endeavour to keep a murderous black wolf at bay, but they dare not come too close for fear of these limb-rending jaws. A shaft is thrown by an audacious soldier.

I rise to my full height upon my human hindquarters, catch the spear in flight and return it to its owner, who gratefully receives it in his thorax and drops to the earth too stunned to see the dark cloud of death fall upon his eyes. Supernatural terror takes the soldiers as they see I am no ordinary wolf. Their panic gives me the edge as I fall upon them, avoiding their frightened spears and shattering their soft bodies.

My enemy is before me again. My gaping maw lunges, eager to end the evil machinations of that poisonous mind. I am upon him, but before I know it his solid silver blade is in my heart, freezing my passion and stealing my strength.

The Spy

The Kephallenian had out-manoeuvred me again, stealing victory from before my very eyes. Blinded by the passion of the wolf, I did not see his silver sword—the only weapon I had to fear—until it was too late.

"Save me, Sunlord!" I cried, turning in desperation to the god of my people. But it was night, and the Kephallenian's victorious sneer told me that the Sunlord was powerless. He twisted the blade in my heart, and as he watched me die his eyes seemed to mock my grieving father.

The Wolf

This man is much stronger than the greedy little sorcerer who loved me and inhabited my skin. Now he possesses me, and he does not love me; he abuses me to assert his power, because he fears me. I have no respect for this bitter man; I do not want him in my skin, but I can not reject him. I would rip out his heart at the cost of my own life, but he is strong and I dare not try. His language is as incomprehensible to me as that of the other human, but as he speaks with his confederates I lie on the floor beside his seat and can feel some of his cares.

He fears that a new enemy among my greedy spy's people will take the field tomorrow and drive the invaders from the land. His motives mean little to me; these people mean nothing to me; their war is as insignificant to me as it is to all of nature, to the earth and to the gods. Not a hair on the Dark Wolf's back is affected by this petty squabble between mortals.

All I know is that I was dead, I was hungry but had neither power to reason nor desire to move. I was dead, but a greedy sorcerer made me live again. Living, I fed, I filled my gut and my heart, I felt passion, joy, lust and the satisfaction of my hunger. Now I am dead again and another sorcerer has need of my skin. Soon I may feed again.

The Enemy

It was decided: I should go into the Trojan camp to learn how true were the stories we had heard about Rhesos of Thrace, and to wreak whatever damage I could to the enemy in the meantime. As the generals left me, I prayed that Maiden Victory would aid me better tonight than the Sunlord would his people. With a thrill of anticipation and fear I considered the wolf-skin on the ground beside me. How long I had known of the shape-shifting pelts, but never had one in my possession! With this challenge I stood at the climax of my magical experimentation: trickery and prestidigitation behind me, I was ready to risk my life with the sinister craft of lycanthropy.

I reached down and with trembling touch, clothed myself in the skin of the black werewolf.

The Werewolf

 [ Wolf's face: image (cc) 2005 Djibril ] I dash from the allied camp, past the sentries like an invisible herald of death. A sleek shadow single-mindedly crosses the bloody field of yesterday's carnage. I pass the Lycian sentries unseen, not stopping to feed lest I raise some alarm. At the door of the newcomer general's tent two Thracian guards stand at ease, feeling no need to be afraid in the heart of a friendly army. Their blood mixes, silently spraying the ground and the front of the tent. I gulp down a mouthful of brains and lope inside.

The tales were true; inside this great tent a team of magical horses are stalled. Only the famous steeds of Rhesos of Thrace can rival those of our sulky Phthian ally. A young stable-hand sleeps; when he wakes I am swallowing his tongue, and before he can scream I tear out his heart and lungs. Any other horses would be screaming and stamping in my feral, magical presence, but these Thracian animals are unperturbed. They will be mine.

Further inside the great tent, beyond a wall of stiff cloth, hangs the newcomer general's golden armour, shining like the sun: it has been blessed by Hector's priests of the Sunlord. A dozen men sleep on crude beds in this chamber; Rhesos shares his officers' barracks. I guess that the golden-bearded giant snoring softly is the general, but just to be sure I fall upon the whole group with a hungry roar and begin killing.

A bloodthirsty orgy of flesh-tearing, limb-rending and life-stealing. A severed arm lands in the general's lap, waking him. A splash of hot brains wets his beard. Men scream as I bury my snout in their viscera and then tear them in half to get loose. Their fear of death fills me with lust and frenzy. Wet flesh, hot blood, sweet entrails and crunching bones become a delicious dance. I move among them, sharing their screams and their death-passions, until I realise that they are all dead, and the general must be among them.

As soon as my bestial passions subside my human cowardice takes over, and I flee the sleeping-chamber, seizing the golden Sun-armour as I pass. More soldiers have come to investigate the slaughter, but my bloodthirsty instinct is repressed now, killing is no longer my priority. I leap, with all my wolf-agility but in human shape, on the back of the magical Thracian horses, and I drive them past the frightened guards. With animal single-mindedness we leave the Trojan camp behind.

The Wolf

The sorcerer has cast me aside like an old coat; I am glad to have him out of my skin. His human mind was more poisonous than that of the greedy little man, his evil of a different colour to my own. Far better to care nothing for others, than to rejoice in their misfortune because it makes one feel less wretched. The sorcerer felt an ugly joy at his enemies' downfall, not because it spelt victory for himself but because he could gloat upon their distress. I feed upon the life and fear of my prey because it strengthens me; he kills in order to feel superior to his foe.

Now I am an empty skin again, with nothing to suggest that I am not merely a rug. But although I am cold and tired and empty, I have fed and known pleasure since I died. I am asleep, but I am not dead. I shall wait—a long time if I have to—but I know I shall rise again, with another body, or alone. I shall feed again.

© 2005, Johann Carlisle

Home Current Back Issues Guidelines Contact About Fiction Artists Non-fiction Support Links Reviews News