By Ian Wilson (Rated PG)
The first story about Walter Ulric. Find more here.
Motorcycle engines thundered through the valley as we raced down the dusty road at the feet of the Rocky Mountains, wild and free. Hoarfrost’s long, grey-brown hair blew in the wind at the head of the pack. I rode slightly behind him, next to Fang. The other eight pack-members rode behind us.
We followed Hoarfrost onto a dirt road into the woods and came to a stop in a clearing. The setting sun cast its red rays through the trees.
“It’s a full moon, tonight,” said Hoarfrost as he removed his helmet. “And you know what that means.”
“Tonight we hunt,” said Fang, showing the jagged teeth that gave him his name.
Stripping off our clothing, we stood naked in the clearing, waiting patiently for the moon to rise. The moment the rays touched our skin, we changed. Wolfish hair replaced bare human skin. We went down on all fours as claws supplanted nails. We howled into the star-studded sky, continuing the ritual that our forefathers had practiced since the days when Vikings ruled the seas. We were wolves.
Into the black, wooded mountains we went in search of game. I picked up the scent first; a herd of elk roamed just over the next hill. I made a low grunt, signalling Hoarfrost. He paused, sniffing the wind. Barking softly, he led the pack over the hill to our next meal. The elk didn’t know what hit them. We singled out the oldest and slowest from the herd, and surrounded it, narrowly avoiding his deadly antlers. Hoarfrost let me make the kill.
As soon as the sun arose the next morning we awakened to human bodies and full stomachs. Putting on our clothes again, we prepared to hit the road.
“Hey Walter!” said Hoarfrost.
“Yeah?” I answered.
“Tonight’s the night!” he replied with a wolfish grin. Fang slapped me on the back.
Tonight was the night, alright. The night that would change my life.
The sun was low on the horizon when we arrived at the camp. It was just a few cabins sitting alone in the Rockies, surrounded by spruce and pine. The Coyotes came out to greet us just as we parked our bikes. The Coyote clan and the Sons of Fenrir had been in a turf war for ages, and now it was coming to an end.
They stood before us in their human forms, silent and solemn, inscrutable as the moon. I greeted Chief Naiche respectfully. At his side was an attractive young lady. Her name was Evening Raider, but I called her Eve. She was quite a looker.
“Nice to see you again, Eve,” I said, smiling.
“Nice to see you again too, Walter.”
Her honey-colored eyes sparkled in the fading sunlight.
“The feast is prepared,” said Chief Naiche, “You may say the pledge when you are ready.”
A massive table laden with food and drink filled the main cabin. Eve and I pledged our love and loyalty to one another and sat down to the marriage feast.
“This is a great occasion indeed,” said the chief. “Tonight we finally end the hostilities between the Coyote clan and the Sons of Fenrir, by the joining of our two houses in the marriage of Walter Ulric and my daughter Evening Raider.”
“To new beginnings,” said Hoarfrost, raising his beer. We raised our drinks in response.
We partied late into the night, drinking, eating, singing and joking. Round about one AM, Eve and I slipped out of the main cabin into the near total darkness outside, where we shared a passionate kiss.
“Are you happy, Walter?” asked Eve.
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I replied.
I sensed something I couldn’t identify, creeping around in the dark. I looked around. Being a werewolf, my senses are much stronger than any ordinary human.
“What is it?” whispered Eve.
“I dunno,” I replied.
I could just faintly see the outline of a man skulking around the cabins. I crept closer to him, not making a single sound.
“Hey!” I shouted.
He spun around, gun drawn.
“Not one more step, werewolf,” he said.
“Now wait just a minute!” I stepped forward. He fired a shot between my feet.
“Next one goes in your head!”
I backed off. There was a soft thump as Eve bashed him over the head with a piece of wood. He dropped like a stone.
“Good job,” I said.
Before long, we had him tied up in one of the cabins until we could decide what to do with him. We’d taken his long, black coat away from him. He was packing some serious ordinance: two revolvers, loaded with silver bullets, with more in his belt; a dagger, a crucifix, a rosary, some assorted saints medals, vials of blessed salt, holy water, anointing oil, some herbs, and a Latin Psalter.
“Rise and shine!” said Hoarfrost as he threw water in the man’s face. Revived, the man scowled up at Hoarfrost. A mistake if ever there was one.
“Now,” said the Alpha, “why were you sneaking around our camp?”
“You got a name?”
“Hey, I’m talking to you!”
Hoarfrost smacked the man across the face.
“The Lord rebuke you,” said the enigmatic man in a serene voice.
Hoarfrost slapped him again. It kept up like this for an hour or so. The man’s face was bruised, his lip swollen and bloody, his eye nearly swollen shut, but still he said nothing.
“Why don’t you just kill him and get it over with?” asked Chief Naiche, who stood right behind us.
“I wanna know how he found out where we are, and what he was planning,” replied Hoarfrost. “Walter, you don’t need to be here. It’s your wedding night; go be with your wife.”
“I’m the one that found him,” I said, nonchalantly. “You go put some ice on your hand. I’ll have a word with him.
“Suit yourself,” said Hoarfrost as he went to the kitchen to get some ice.
I pulled up an old wooden chair and sat down in front of this werewolf hunter as he muttered something to himself. I sat quietly and listened to whatever it was he was saying.
“Is that Latin?” I asked. The man continued to chant without acknowledging me.
“You praying?” I asked. Still nothing.
“Hey,” I growled, growing annoyed. “Are you gonna answer me, or what?”
“I don’t have to,” replied the man.
“Look, fella,” I said, “You’re in trouble.”
“You’re the one who’s in trouble, Walter Ulric,” said the man.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“I’ve been following your trail for a while, now,” he answered. “I know Amund Ulric, alias Hoarfrost, is your cousin and you’re his second in command.”
“That’s right,” I said, taking a cigarillo out of my pocket.
“You a monster hunter?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you here to kill us?” I asked.
“Just Hoarfrost or Chief Naiche.”
“‘Or’?” I inquired.
“If I killed the alpha of either your pack or theirs, one pack would blame the other for it and it would start another turf war.”
“Why do you want that?” I asked.
“If y’all are busy killing each other, you won’t have time to hurt nobody else.”
“Why’d you say I was in trouble?” I asked.
“You know what you’ve done, Walter,” replied the man. “The Lord don’t take kindly to this work.”
I have to admit, that remark scared me. Ever since I hit the road with the Sons of Fenrir, I’d helped them do some pretty awful things. I’d never killed a man, but I’d robbed, I’d hurt folk. I knew if and when I met the Almighty I’d have a lot of explaining to do. I’d walked away from God, and as Johnny Cash said, sooner or later He’d put me down.
“You got a name?” I asked.
“Would it matter if I told you?”
“Conrad LeFontain,” he replied. The name sounded French, but I detected a Southern drawl. I suspected he was from Louisiana or thereabout.
“I didn’t think you’d care if I killed Hoarfrost,” said Conrad, “after he killed your father and all.”
I reeled. Killed my father? Near as I knew, my father’s murder was unsolved. I’d always blamed the vampires or a rival pack, but Hoarfrost? My own cousin?
“You’re pullin’ my leg,” I said, crossing my arms.
“May God strike me if I’m lying,” replied the monster hunter.
I puffed thoughtfully on my cigarillo. Maybe he was trying to sow dissension. Maybe this was a ploy to get me on his side. I didn’t wanna think that, though, him being a man of God and all.
“What proof do you have?” I asked.
“Check his saddle bags,” replied Conrad.
“What will I find?” I queried.
“You’ll know when you find it.”
Hoarfrost ambled into the little room.
“Find out anything?” he asked.
“He was trying to stir up the turf war between us and the coyotes again,” replied. I gave him enough truthful information to satisfy him, keeping the rest to myself.
“Good work,” said Hoarfrost. “Now, let’s go get some shuteye.”
I went out into the gravel drive where the bikes were parked. Swaggering over to Hoarfrost’s bike, I opened one of his saddle bags and felt around until I touched a cold, metal object. It was a revolver, the same caliber as was used to put two bullets in my dad. I couldn’t believe it. The man who gave me a home and a job (such as it was) was the same man who put my dad in the ground. Placing the weapon back in the bag, I started to go to my cabin, paused and turned around. I was going to get to the bottom of this.
“Walter!” a voice called. I looked to my cabin to see Evening Raider standing at the doorway wearing one of my flannel shirts. She looked cute.
“Just a minute, sweetheart,” I said, holding up my index finger. I marched back to the bike, removed the gun from the bag, and went right into the main cabin. There, Hoarfrost, Chief Naiche, and Fang were discussing what to do with their prisoner.
“I say we kill him nice and slow,” said Fang, fondling a knife.
“Kill him quick and burn the body,” said Chief Naiche. “No evidence.”
“We could compromise and burn him alive,” said Hoarfrost with a sadistic laugh.
I slammed the revolver on the table in front of the werewolves. Hoarfrost narrowed his eyes.
“Where did you find that?” asked the Alpha.
“From your saddle bag,” I growled. “Same caliber as the gun that killed my Pa.”
“Are you crazy?” asked Hoarfrost, sitting back in his chair and furrowing his bushy brows.
“I don’t hear you denying it,” I retorted, crossing my arms. “There were only a few people who knew what he really was, and fewer that knew where he was, and nobody else had a motive to kill him.”
“What motive would Hoarfrost have to kill Buck?” asked Fang.
“His name was Gudmund Ulric,” I stated.
“When old White Claw finally gave up the ghost, someone had to take his place,” began Hoarfrost, “Buck was next in line. As long as he was still alive, the position of Alpha was in limbo.”
“So you killed him so you could move up?” I barked.
“Them’s the rules, Walt,” replied Hoarfrost. “Someone had to do it. Buck knew that just as well as I did.”
“He was no threat to you!” I shouted. “He had no interest in being Alpha!”
“And what if he changed his mind?” asked Hoarfrost.
“I ought to gut you like the pig you are!”
Quick as a flash of lightning, I snatched up the gun that slew my father and fired at Hoarfrost, but Fang pushed him out of the way of the oncoming silver bullet, taking it himself. Chief Naiche rose up and reached for his gun, but stopped himself; It wouldn’t be right to interfere. Instead, he faded out of the room, leaving Hoarfrost and I to our own devices.
Leaping over the table, the other werewolf took me to the floor. I tried to get a proper hold in, but Hoarfrost was on top, and more muscular. I managed to roll him over onto his back, but his hands wrapped around my throat. I was suffocating. I let go with my left hand, drew my knife, and stabbed him in the throat. Death was almost instant.
Everything seemed red with blood. The rest of the pack had gathered around to see what would happen. They looked at the dead body of Hoarfrost lying on the floor, then at me, amazed expressions on every face. Ignoring them, I stomped into the next room and cut the ropes binding Conrad LeFontain and helped him off the floor.
“You’re just gonna let him walk?!” said Red, another member of my pack.
“Yep,” I replied.
I went to my cabin, where I found Eve lying seductively on the bed. Her eyes went wide with shock at the sight of my bloody clothes.
“What happened?” she exclaimed, sitting upright.
“Hoarfrost and I had a disagreement.”
Marching straight to the bathroom, I stripped off my clothes and washed the blood from my hands, arms, and face.
Eve stood in the doorway.
“Does this mean you’re the Alpha now?”
Ignoring the question, I brushed past the girl and packed my bags.
“Where are you going?” asked Eve.
“Away from here.”
“Who’s gonna lead the pack?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care, Eve,” I responded.
Eve glared at me.
“Walter, you can’t just walk away!” she said, crossing her arms.
“Watch me,” I said, throwing the bags over my shoulder.
Putting on a blue bathrobe, Eve followed me outside as the golden crown of the sun peeked over the mountains.
“We said the pledge!” she hissed angrily.
“This life ain’t for me anymore, Eve,” I stated as I swung my leg over my motorcycle. “You can either come with me or stay with them.”
I gestured to the mixed crowd of werewolves and skinwalkers gathered in the gravel drive.
“This is the only life I’ve ever known, Walt!” cried Eve.
“Then I’m sorry.”
Conrad approached as I buckled on my helmet.
“Where are you gonna go?” he asked.
“Back home,” I replied. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know, yet.”
“Hop on,” I said.
Conrad hesitated, shrugged his shoulders and hopped into the sidecar of my bike. I started the engine and took her down the mountain, turning eastward onto the paved highway.