Spirit of the Blue-Eyed Wolf
"You must be very brave, young man…" The inn keeper eyed Wufei skeptically as he served him a bowl of thick stew and a glass of cheap wine. The meal was part of the 'payment' the wandering monk was receiving for sealing away a few minor demons that has been causing havoc in town. "…for even considering crossing the forest alone and on foot."
"Or very foolish," a tall, broad-shouldered man at the adjacent table added. His gray tunic was mended and patched in several places, his dark hair was short and tousled and his skin had the weathered look of someone who spent most of his days outdoors.
Wufei looked at the man then at the inn keeper. "Why is that?" he asked. He had crossed many forests on his journey and never before been called brave or foolish for doing so.
The inn keeper leaned in and lowered his voice as he whispered. "Because of the curse."
"The curse?" the young monk echoed.
"Yes," the man at the other table confirmed grimly. "I take it that you didn't know. The woods and everything living in it are cursed."
"Does that include the people living at Wolfstein castle?"
Suddenly it was so quiet that one could have heard a pin drop, as everybody in the room looked at the man who had just entered the tavern. He was tall and slender but by no means thin. His long, silvery hair was held together in a loose pony-tail by a black velvet ribbon. His outfit and the sword he was carrying clearly indicated that he was a man of status and wealth.
"Lord Peacecraft!?" the inn keeper finally broke the uncomfortable silence as he hurried to the man's side. "What can I do for you today?"
The man pulled out a piece of paper. "I've made a list of things we need. I'll be back tomorrow to pick them up."
The inn keeper nodded as he accepted the list. "Anything else, my lord?"
"Yes, I'm thirsty. Give me a glass of your best wine."
"Right away, Sir."
He waited for his drink, then walked over to where Wufei was sitting. For a long moment he studied the young man. His eyes, pale-blue like frozen lakes, seemed to chill the monk straight to the core. "You are?" His voice was deep and smooth; his tone demanding, as though he was used to giving orders.
"Wufei. Chang Wufei. I'm just a traveling monk."
The fair-haired man took a sip from his wine, his eyes never leaving Wufei. "The people in this town are mostly cowards," he then said. "And they seem to have way too much time on their hands. So they sit around talking too much. But if I were you, monk, I'd heed their warning and stay clear of the woods. They are no place for a lone traveler, especially not after nightfall." With that he drained his glass, set it down on the table and turned to leave.
"Your Lordship?" the inn keeper called out after him.
He turned his head. "What is it?"
"I looked over your supply list, Sir. If you wish to wait I can have it put together for you right away. It should not take very long."
The man threw a quick look at the window then shook his head. "I don't have time to wait now; I'll be back tomorrow," he announced.
The man at the table next to Wufei snorted once the door had closed behind Lord Peacecraft. "He calls us cowards, and then he runs like a rabbit making sure he gets home before the sun sinks."
"Shut up, Gerald." The inn keeper gave him an angry look. "That big mouth of yours is going to get you in a heap of trouble some day."
Wufei was still staring at the door long after the man had left. Those eyes, he thought, so cold and distant, but at the same time so incredibly sad and haunting.
"Who was that man?" he finally asked the inn keeper.
"Lord Peacecraft? He is one of the two masters of 'Wolfstein castle'. They own this land, the forest and everything you can see within a hundred miles."
"The forest that you say is cursed?" the young monk wanted to know.
The inn keeper nodded. "As far as I know Wolfstein was built as a hunting castle a very long time ago, but the two lords bought it along with the land some time before the curse."
"The curse can you tell me more about it?" Wufei asked; his curiosity roused.
"I don't know much about it myself. I just remember the forest being lush and full of game. These days however it's dark and overgrown; a breeding ground for demons and monsters only."
"They say it's the doing of a powerful wizard whose soul was sealed inside the body of a wolf." Gerald added, and one of the men he was drinking with nodded.
"He is leading a pack of demon wolves, and he can use the power of the sun and the moon. That's why at nighttime his fur is silver as moonlight, and in the daylight it has the color of copper. But no matter how he alters his appearance, he can never change the color of his eyes. They are always blue. That's how you know it's not a normal wolf but a demon when you meet him."
"Have you ever met him?" the monk asked.
"Me? Of course not. I would not be crazy enough to go near that cursed place."
"Me neither." Gerald said. "But I have heard of people who say they saw and heard him."
A blue-eyed wolf leading a pack of demons: Wufei had never heard of anything like it. Nor had he ever heard of a wizard whose spirit had been sealed inside an animal. As far as he knew it was just not possible. He was beginning to wonder if this whole story was nothing but myth and hearsay.
"You should eat, young man. The stew won't be any good if it gets cold." The innkeeper advised, and Wufei nodded.
He took a large spoonful of the stew. It was thick with lots of vegetables and large chunks of meat and it tasted good. The young man was hungry and it didn't take him long to empty the whole bowl. Soon after he went upstairs to the small room under the roof he had been sleeping in for the past few nights. He wanted to get up early tomorrow, take care of the last few demons and be on his way. He had already stayed longer than planned in this town.
Wufei closed his eyes and concentrated as he pulled out a handful of o-fuda. The small paper strips had been prepared by the head-priest of his shrine himself.
He would probably be able to seal the minor demons he was dealing with without the help of charms, but it would take a lot more time and energy; neither of which he wanted to waste more of than necessary. He had already been in this town for four days and he was more than ready to continue his journey.
Very soon after finishing his training Wufei had realized that spending his life at one shrine or temple was not what he really wanted. When he spoke about it to his teacher the man didn't seem as surprised as Wufei had expected.
"You are young," he had told him. "It is not unusual for the young to be restless. You should follow your heart and your own aspiration. Eventually you will find your true calling."
"How can I find if I'm not even sire what it is I am looking for?" he had asked.
The old man has simply smiled at him. "You will know once you find it. Trust me, son, you will know."
Several moons had passed since, and his journey had taken him many miles. He still was not sure what he actually was looking for but he truly trusted his teacher's words of advice.
Wufei's eye snapped open the moment he felt the demons' energy increase. They were coming out of their hiding places. He waited for the creatures - there were three of them- to come closer before he threw the o-fuda into the air. The paper charms spread, then surrounded the demons, forming a perfect circle; a barrier that could not be broken. Wufei brought his hands together with only the fingertips touching and quickly murmured a sealing spell. He raised his staff over his head and brought it down with a forceful swing. When its tip touched one of the papers, all of the charms in the circle started to glow. The bright white light spread to the center enclosing the struggling demons. Then with a puff and a small red flame they disappeared. The spell had used up all the energy stored in the o-fuda. The now useless papers burned up in mid-air and fell to the ground as ashes.
That's all; I'm done here! Wufei braced himself with his staff, unwilling to admit that the ritual had cost him a considerable amount of energy. Time to collect the last of my payment and be on my way.
The sun had long set when Wufei started to look for a place to spend the night. In spite of the villager's warning the young monk had decided to take the shorter path through the forest instead of traveling all the way around it. When he finally found a clearing by a small stream he knew that it was perfect to set up camp.
Wufei raised his head and looked up. It was a beautiful night. There was not a cloud in the sky and a nearly full moon bathed the glade in pale, silvery light; a wonderful place for a peaceful meal and a good night's rest.
He put down his staff and his pack beneath a large tree. The young monk had long learned the usefulness of traveling lightly. Aside from his charms and spell scrolls his bundle never held more than a few days food, a change of clothes or two and a blanket to sleep under.
With a few armfuls of dry wood and branches Wufei quickly built a fire and spread his blanket out next to it. He pulled out the small linen sack that held his food supplies. The meal was going to be simple; fresh bread stacked with cheese, a few slices of salt-cured meat and a drink of clear water from the stream. At least that's how Wufei had planned it. But he had barely taken a bite or two when he suddenly sensed demonic energy nearby. He could clearly make out the aura of two… no three… make it four demons. The young man frowned as he realized that they were closing in and multiplying quickly. So much for a peaceful meal, he sighed as he reached for his staff.
He spun around just in time to see several sets of glowing red eyes staring down at him from the trees beyond the clearing. For a brief moment Wufei wondered how the creatures had made it so far up the trees, but then the flapping of wings answered his question. He jerked his head around and looked up to see several more demons directly above him. They were large, their bodies about the size of an average human with reptilian skin and wings about the length of a horse. Red eyes stared at him from above large, birdlike beaks.
Two creatures dove down at the monk simultaneously, attempting to grab him with their powerful saber-clawed feet. Wufei raised his staff and swirled it over his head. He hit both demons mid-flight, evaporating them instantly. With bone-chilling shrieks several more creatures followed their companion's example and scooped down trying to rip him to pieces. Wufei barely had time to pull out a protection charm and put up a defensive barrier around himself. He was safe, for the moment. But he was not sure how long he would be able to keep the shield up. Protective spells drained a lot of energy from the user, and he could not afford to completely exhaust himself.
Then he heard a sound, a long, high-pitched howl. Wolves! Wonderful, Wufei thought with a hint of dark sarcasm. Being attacked from the air isn't enough; throw in some ground attacks as well. Maybe I should try to get myself out of here quickly.
The flying demons finally seemed to have figured out that they could not break through the barrier around the monk, and settled down in nearby trees waiting. They didn't have to wait long, because Wufei decided to take his chances. He lowered his protection, grasped his staff tighter and looked around searching for the best point to break through the circle of demons around him. He focused on one creature at a time as he attacked. They were slow in turning he soon realized, and not really that hard to defeat when he took advantage of that weakness. But it was their sheer number that made them such difficult opponents. For some reason it seemed every time he killed one a dozen others appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It was like fighting a hydra.
Suddenly Wufei noticed a dark shadow behind him; he instinctively ducked his head, and a large wolf leaped over him. The animal jumped right at the demon he had been fighting. It buried it's fangs in the creatures neck, shaking and growling as it ripped out the demon's throat. Wufei was stunned, even more so as a number of other wolves joined the fight. The canines made short work of the winged creatures; a few of them even chased after those who tried to escape into the woods.
Breathing heavily the young monk leaned on his staff for support as one of the wolves approached him. Without a doubt it was the leader of the pack. He was larger than average; his fur sparkled like silver in the moonlight and his eyes…his eyes were large and blue.
The demon Wolf?! He does exist after all. Wufei instinctively clutched his staff tighter. However, he could not sense any kind of demonic energy from the animal… or any of the other wolves in the pack for that matter.
Suddenly the wolf's head snapped around in alarm. Wufei could feel it too; something was approaching, something very big, and very dangerous.
It's the mother! The thought popped into his head unexpectedly and he didn't even know where it came from, but it made sense. The aura was very similar to the ones he had gotten from the winged demons, only a whole lot stronger. The young monk swallowed. If those were her offspring…I'm not sure I want to know what a fully grown demon of that kind looks like.
They didn't have to wait long. The sound of flapping wings prompted Wufei to raise his head. His jaw almost dropped at the sheer size of the creature above him. Its body easily measured the length of three horses, the span of its wings was enormous, and the beak seemed large enough to swallow him in one gulp.
The silver wolf raised his nose toward the moon and let out one long howl. Somewhere in the distance the call was answered by a number of other wolves.
As the bird-like creature scooped down from the sky Wufei pulled out an o-fuda and performed a binding spell. The demon screeched but the spell didn't have much of an effect on it. One flap of its giant wings nearly sent the monk flying. His chest, where the wing had hit him, ached. He had barely found his footing when the creature attacked again. It came so fast that Wufei could barely react. The large beak was so close that he could small its foul breath. Suddenly the silver wolf leaped directly at him. The impact knocked Wufei off his feet, but out of harms way.
What are you doing? Don't just stand there, he heard a voice in his head, but he didn't have time to wonder about it, because the creature was already attacking again.
One of the wolves jumped up and went for the demon's throat, but before he reached it the creature grabbed the canine with one of its massive, razor-sharp claws, shook it and tossed it aside like a ball of cotton. The wolf let out a single yelp before it hit the ground and collapsed lifelessly with a broken neck.
The silver wolf howled, it sounded like an angry cry, then attacked from the opposite side. The creature, much faster than its offspring, raised its other claw.
"Watch out!" Wufei yelled. It was an unconscious reaction. There was no way that the wolf understood his warning. But perhaps the scream startled it just enough to jump away in the nick of time. He avoided the demon's attack but not completely. One of the sharp talons grazed his body just before he leaped out of reach. The canine tumbled a few times but jumped back onto his feet in an instant, even as dark blood started to seep from its wounded shoulder. He circled the creature then attacked from behind. Powerful jaws clamped down on the demons flank. A dozen other wolves followed their leader's example and within moments the winged creature was on the ground, and pinned down by its attackers.
Now! Use your staff to finish it off! The voice in his head ordered. The monk did not hesitate. He raised his staff and plunged it into the creature's skull with all the strength he could still master. With a bone-chilling screech the demon disappeared in a cloud of dark, foul-smelling smoke. Wufei dropped to his knees, exhausted. His hands were shaking as he clenched his staff; his breath came in short, labored huffs. His chest was still hurting from where the demon's wing had struck him.
Suddenly he heard hoof beats and when he raised his head the young monk noticed a man on a white horse. The wolves moved aside as the rider tugged at the reins and guided the mount toward him. Wufei could not blame them. The stallion's hoofs looked powerful enough to easily crack a wolf's skull in a single blow.
"Are you alright?" the stranger asked as he reined his steed to a stop just in front of Wufei.
The monk nodded. "I'm fine."
"I heard commotion and decided to check what was going on," the rider explained as he dismounted. "But it seems that I came too late; you have already taken care of the problem without me."
"I… I had some help." Wufei looked at the large silver wolf who was sitting a little aside, licking his wound. He suddenly realized that he was still on his knees. Using his staff as support the young monk tried to push himself up, and instantly was overcome by a wave of fatigue.
"Easy now," the stranger warned his voice lazed with concern. "You should not push yourself. You seem to be exhausted."
"I'm fine." Wufei insisted. At least he was trying to, but as soon as those words left his lips his knees buckled. His mind dipped into a dark void of unconsciousness and he collapsed.