Nearly two months ago...
Risk rubbed his thumb along the crescent blade of his ax and stared up at the sky. It was a lovely winter night, chill filled the air and nipped at his nose. Everything was silent and beautifully lit up by the full moon. It was well past midnight and a blanket of stars encrusted the sky.
He'd carried the ax more than half his life, and felt naked without it. The shining blade was given to him when he signed on as a Defender during the Great Orc Uprising. The war was over 10 years dead, but he still carried the ax. Standing waist deep in a trench filled with frozen mud, hacking wave after wave of orcs and men to bits had a way of sticking with a man. He'd been little more than a lad of 14 when he signed the papers that made him a soldier. At the end of the war, when he was released from duty, they had given him his ax and armour as payment for eight years service in the Gladian army. He was a Blademaster, but swords cost more than axes, and so it was the ax they gave him. He hadn't complained, so glad he was to be free.
A few weeks prior, the townsfolk of Z had complained of strange shapes moving in the night. The Council had responded to the outcry of it's citizens by mounting a Nightwatch. All the prominent men of the city had been conscripted and given hours of patrol, and Risk's was just about up. He was eager to get home to his wife, Isodora. She didn't like being left alone at night, and what Dory didn't like, she changed. If she was left alone much, she just might find herself a 'friend' and Risk would have to kill the fellow. He'd killed his first man when he was 15 and had never much cared for it. Bad business, killing folk. He'd only been married four months, and already he'd had to kill two men for sneaking into his bed. The thought of killing another of Dory's lovers turned his stomach and left a bad taste in his mouth.
Yes, Risk didn't like leaving his wife home alone, but more than that his feet were half-frozen in his boots. He wiggled his toes and took a few steps toward home. What could it hurt to leave a few minutes early? The night was quiet and cold as a mountain grave.
It was then that he saw her flying toward him. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, staring incredulously at the figure dressed all in white, ebony hair fluttering in the breeze she made with her flight. He didn't go for the ax, never tried to draw his weapon. He was completely taken off guard when she crashed into him and bore him to the ground.
“You were-... You flew!” He gasped at the woman.
“Actually, it was more like gliding on air than actual flying.” She smiled down at him. Her hair was so black, her skin so white, her lips the reddest he had seen. She made Dory's golden beauty seem gaudy in comparison.
“You're freezing cold...” was the last thing Risk said as a human being. The glorious, cold woman bent his head back with her slim, pale hands. He felt as helpless as a babe and calmer than he had been in years. A tension he hadn't realized he had carried around inside him released when her eyes locked onto his.
“Gaea forgive me,” She whispered, opening her mouth wide and clamping onto his neck with her tiny fangs.
She's so beautiful... Gods, I want her to love me, how can I make her love me? She's so perfect, I can make her so happy. I have to make her happy. How can I make her happy? Oh beautiful mistress, please let me please you. Please teach me to-...
A great gold and gray blur crashed into the woman, knocking her from atop Risk and he blacked out.
Weak from blood loss, he cracked his eyes open and saw the outline of a very large wolf standing over him. It whimpered and licked his face and neck. Risk flashed in and out of consciousness. The wolf was nudging his face, trying to wake him up. It seemed to be trying to communicate with its eyes, it nuzzled his cheek and he thought for a moment, one crazed moment, that it was apologizing for what it was about to do.
Without warning, the wolf bit into Risk's arm and raked it's paws down his stomach as though trying to dig a hole through his middle. Risk bellowed in pain and writhed about on the frozen ground. He gripped fistfuls of frost covered grass in both hands and tried to get away. For the first time, he realized he had to get away or he would die. Whatever spell the woman had put him under was wearing off, and he had to get away... Get away or die... Get away... Or die... ... ... Or die...
Three days later Risk woke up naked and tied to a stinking filthy miner's bed with three women standing over him. One was a dwarf, one was an elf and one was a gnome. It wasn't the first time he'd found himself naked and alone with three women, but it was the first with so many varying races. What had happened? It must have been one hell of a party for him to forget all
of the details.
Then he remembered. He remembered the woman flying, and the wolf attack. And now he was kidnapped by three strange women and tied to a bed. He thought he was dreaming, it had to be a dream. These things didn't happen to him. He was a gambler, a rogue. He loved women, they wouldn't kidnap him and put him in a dirty bed. It was insane, it was all so insane.
“Wh-.. What's...” He began.
“Shh. We're here to help you.” said the elf. “You are bound so that you will not Shift again.”
“Who are you?” He managed to ask.
“We're the Pack. You are safe with us.” She said. “She had to do it, or you would have died. You have to understand...”
Oh great, a cult. I've been kidnapped by a cult.
he thought dimly, before falling once more into a dreamless sleep.
He had no idea how long he had been asleep, but he awoke to poking and prodding and nudging. The women had been replaced by a heavily bearded dwarf, who was repeatedly pressing a sharp finger into Risk's side.
“Oh, goodie. He's awake,” said the dwarf. “I don't suppose you have a name do you, pup?”
“Everyone has a name.” Risk croaked, his throat was so dry it felt aflame. He had to swallow three times before he could speak.
“Well, what is it?”
“Water.” Risk whispered.
“Well, I'll be damned. Strangest name I ever did hear! But I suppose it serves it's purpose. M'name's MacCormac. Most folks call me Mac.”
“No. Drink water.” Risk pointed weakly toward a pitcher on a distant table. It was then that he realized he was no longer bound.
“What? Oh! Right. You want a drink, well, why didn't you just say so in the first place.” Mac ambled over to the table and poured dingy water into a chipped clay mug then passed it to Risk.
After draining it's contents, Risk sat up and took in his surroundings. “My name is Risk.”
“That's an odd name, but not as odd as Water.” Mac chortled into his beard.
“The attack...” Risk began, before the dwarf interrupted him.
“There's time later for that, lad. Here, have another drink.” Mac said, refilling the cup.
“No, I need to know. Was it a dream? I feel fine. I don't see any wounds, but it seemed so real...” Risk said, running his hands over his uninjured body.
“As to that... Well, we heal very fast.” Mac said.
“Werewolves. We heal fast, our senses are sharp, we have amazing reflexes, we're strong. Gods, but we are strong. We run fast too. Some think the trade off is more than worth it.”
“Werewolves,” stated Risk dryly.
“Yep. That's what we are. She had to make you one of us or you would have died from the vampire bite.” Mac said reasonably.
“Right. Vampires.” Risk said, smirking slightly.
“I guess you are one of those what has to see to believe, aintcha? Ah well, here goes.” With that, the dwarf stood and started taking off his clothing.
“What are you..?! Hey, wait! What do you think you are doing?”
“No sense in ruining a good suit of clothing, now is there?” Mac said, folding his clothes and sitting them atop his chair.
The dwarf stood naked in the center of the room. He stretched his arms out in front of him, stretched his neck and his skin began to ripple. Risk blinked as Mac's limbs elongated, first his fingers turned to claws, his hands to paws, his arms and legs became furred and slowly his face became that of a wolf's. Bones popped, muscles plopped, skin oozed and all manner of unearthly sounds were emitted as the relatively short dwarf became a huge wolf.
Where once a 200 pound dwarf stood, now sat a 200lb wolf. It was much larger than those found in nature, and an uncommon intelligence radiated from it's golden eyes. It's fur was black and shaggy and it smelled almost as bad as the dwarf himself had smelled.
As suddenly as he had Shifted into a wolf, he Shifted back into a dwarf and sat naked and panting in his chair. “Shew. Takes a lot out of a man, changing that fast. It's usually best to stay in wolf form for at least a night, and to catch a meal while you are at it. It's draining, otherwise.”
“I can't believe this. I can do that? How? This is...” Risk trailed off.
“Amazing?” Mac offered.
“You could say that.”
“You can do it, but not right now. You'll Shift for the first time at the next full moon, then after that you'll have control over it... Until the next full moon. The Wolf controls you on that night. You'll feel him rattling around in there, helping you make decisions, urging you to do... stuff.”
“Stuff?” Risk asked, curiously.
“I can't do this. I don't have time for it. Dory doesn't like being left alone at night. I can't leave her every month at the full moon. Isn't there a cure? I have a wife, a home, a life.” Risk argued.
“We all did at some point. There's no going back.” Mac said, shaking his head sadly.
“You don't understand. I love her, I can't leave her once a month. Is there a cure? There has to be a cure!” Risk insisted.
“There isn't one lad, this was the only way. Would you rather be dead, or worse, undead?” Mac reasoned.
“There has to be a cure!” Risk shouted, pounding his fist on the bed. “I like my life!”
“There isn't one.” repeated Mac.
Risk raged, he kicked and screamed. He punched his pillow and bellowed his anger at the ceiling. He felt something inside him wake up and stir. It liked his anger, it wanted more. It wanted him to tear into raw meat. It wanted blood. That deflated him like nothing else could have.
Risk didn't like blood.
“Maybe you are wrong, maybe I am not what... you are. What you said. I can't be. Dory wouldn't like that.” Risk said.
“Dory probably won't like it.” Mac said.
“What am I going to do?” Risk asked.
“We all have to find our own path, but whatever you decide the Pack will be here for you. You are one of us now.”
“No, I can't be.”
“No. I... Can I go?”
“If you like, we'll be here when you need us.”
“I don't.” Risk insisted.
“You will.” Mac said, and left Risk alone to dress.
Risk dressed and left. He couldn't believe what had happened. It wasn't real. It had been a dream, it was all a dream. But what if it was real?
He went home, to Dory. He could smell another man on his bed, on his woman. He could smell
him. That wasn't right. He was mad at Isodora for the first time in their marriage. She shouldn't have done that. Why couldn't he trust her?
It wasn't his fault he was delayed. She laid into him for leaving her alone all that time, and what could he tell her? It enraged him that he couldn't explain himself without bringing fairy tales into the mix. Vampires. Werewolves. He
didn't believe it. Who would believe that? The Wolf inside him tasted his rage and liked it. The Wolf rolled his anger around it's mouth like a fine wine and relished it.
The Wolf wanted to tear into Dory's sweet pink skin. It wanted to drink her blood and screams. To rip the screams from her for all the wrongs she had done... Why was she screaming and shouting and cheating and lying? She was a whore, a liar, a cheat, a skank! She should pay! She would
pay. He would teach her loyalty... To be faithful was the way of the Wolf. She would learn.
He took one step toward her and he... Pulled himself together, raking a hand over his face. He packed a satchel and left. Just like that, he left his home, his wife, his entire life behind. What else could he do?
He did the only thing left that he thought might work. He went to the Mages in their Onyx Tower. If there was a cure, they would have it. They were healers, they brought people back from the brink of death. They would know what to do.