Early that evening, I left the town, for the first and only time not just in the company of my friends, but with the knowledge that they knew what I was.
Samantha, though still upset with me, provided us with a horse cart to get us there quicker. The horse was skittish, but that's only natural. I do have a strong scent of wolves about me, and horses have good reason to be afraid of wolves.
The one who guided the horse had been, until recently, a vampire. He was clearly afraid of me still. I guess I can't blame him. He dropped us at the edge of the forest and told us he'd been given orders to return immediately. I guess we'd have to make our own way back.
This forest was markedly different from the pack's forest. For one thing, the trees didn't so much climb to reach the sky as they did claw, seeming to push each other aside. There was far less undergrowth, and few tracks – and those tracks that were here had large prints that gave the impression of bigness in the owner. Flatter ground, fewer rocks... I also knew this forest had absolutely no contact with the pack's one. Why had Kathann chosen here?
Despite still not being entirely comfortable around me, the others stayed close all the same.
We were attacked once in that forest. A huge bear, seemingly rabid came out of nowhere. Big as it was, I was bigger it after I changed to the hybrid form and shoved it roughly to the forest floor. It struggled, but I held firm. It was completely rabid, and wasn't going to let up or be scared off, so with a little hesitation – Kairi was watching, after all – I had to finish it off, and the quickest way to do it was to crunch down on the back of it's neck.
"Is it... dead?" she asked after I changed back.
I nodded, "There wasn't any other way."
"Sora." I turned to face her. She looked curious. "Grin at me." Odd request, but... she sighed when I did. "At least if you have to do this, you could clean your teeth afterwards. You've got blood over them."
Just like Kairi to notice something like that and chide me over it. I quickly attended to that before we continued on.
We didn't see Kathann at all, but as we went on I realized he didn't need to. The forest gradually faded from what Goofy insisted on calling the Vampire Forest to the greener and rougher terrains that had once been the pack's home grounds. It seemed to avoid the remains of the grounds, and eventually we came out on that rocky precipice where the ritual happened. Kathann was not there, but there was someone there. He had no scent, and wore heavy plate armour, burnished to a bright white.
He stood looking out over the forest below, in the same spot I'd have to be to carry out the ritual.
"Who is he?" Donald asked.
"I don't know," I replied.
"You're early, Kulim," the stranger said. No one had called me by that name since before the attack.
"You know my name?"
"Kathann told me. I come here just before the ritual takes place. It's become a kind of ritual for me since he started watching over us."
"You're a werewolf too."
"Was, Kulim, was. Do you know who I was?"
"You're Kamaz, aren't you? The first one, I mean."
"And the first werewolf too. I've been watching you. You did a great honour to my name."
"I thought you were Kamaz?" Kairi asked me.
"It's passed on to the werewolf champion, whoever that happens to be, in his honour," I answered.
"There's another reason I'm here tonight, of course," he went on, finally turning to face me. He had the kind of face that couldn't look anything but... well, kind... it seemed to have an almost permanent smile to it. "Your fight isn't over."
"But I killed him. They all got turned back to humans."
"No," he shook his head. "He managed to pull one last trick. He didn't have to wait for them to get to the fortress. He had his vampires go out and turn a huge amount of unimportant humans, told them a highly biased version of what happened to incense them against you, and then sent them in. Very few of the vampires that already existed were actually there."
"So... I've still got that oath to fulfil."
"You made good on that oath. You brought down the one man with enough power to unify the vampires. They've split into many warring factions now, and none of their leaders have been around for long enough to gain that same power. They'll fight among themselves, and do anything to stop another getting close to it, then in turn be taken down by others seeking to do the same to them. You've done the hard part." He glanced up to the clouded sky. "It's almost time. May your strength never wane," he said in an ancient wolven platitude, then he faded out.
"What's this ritual he talked about?"
"I told you earlier when I was explaining."
"It didn't make any sense."
"Why didn't you say anything? I could have explained again. It goes like this. Luna – the moon to you – is what lets me be what I am. The ritual is the way we pay our respects, and ask for it to let us keep on being werewolves. There's more to it than that, but it'll start soon. I have to be a wolf for this, and you need to wait here." I took Kamaz' place, and paused just before I changed form. "You'll be the first people ever to see this that aren't werewolves," I told them, then changed.
You already know what happens, so I won't go into all of it.
When Kathann appeared, his Mother was there also this time. As far as I know, that had never happened before, even once.
"You have done well," She told me in flawless wolven. "I knew you were capable of the task at hand."
"Then why did you try to stop me?"
"Would you have been as insistent if I had not?"
What could I say to that?
"Some of them survived," I told Her instead. She probably knew – She was a God, after all. It broke the topic to her though.
"Be not concerned for that. You have achieved what was required of you."
"What of the consequences you told me of?"
"Has the reaction you receive for your actions not been consequence enough?"
"One can make up with the friends."
"But not easily. I would give you an offer, if you would hear it."
"What is it?"
"The task of the werewolves is complete. They have no further task of reason to exist, and when there are too few of a kind left when that happens, I allow them to fade out of existance. I should be doing that right now."
"But-" I started, but she waved me into silence.
"Though it is a curse comparable to that of the one that caused the existance of the vampires, I would ask you to keep that curse, and in exchange I will restore your friends to the innocence they had before they witnessed you complete your task."
Now I understood. She had to balance things, and if I showed any sign of wanting this, it would seem like two things for me, and not one to counter the other. At last I understood why she insisted that this was a curse to bear and not a gift.
"I will bear your curse in exchange for that," I told her, playing along.
"Then bear through the night with their knowledge, and when they awaken, it will be done."
"Are you done, Mother?" Kathann asked, sat patiently waiting. "Our time has almost passed."
"Of course. You may not see me again, Sora," she told me, this time in the human tongue, "But know that I am always watching your actions. Live well, Last of the Werewolves."
She vanished, and Kathann and I completed the ritual.
That night, we camped in the woods, and when we woke up, I saw that She had kept her word. Our campsite had been made to resemble the one that had been made just after the loss of the pack, and none of them had any memory of the morning after that previous camp up until now. They firmly believed that this was the morning after that terrible day, and once more had no idea what I was.
It's been a few months since then. Occasionally I still run across the odd vampire, and I take up the ancient fight once more. I try to avoid it when I can't get away from my friends to deal with them, and every once in a while I sneak off to go take out a few more. It keeps them off guard, and reminds them that I'm still here, and that I still haven't forgiven them for what I took from Samantha.
I pay a call on her from time to time. Like those who are still vampires, she knows what I am. I can talk about it with her, but she still resents what had to be done, so I don't call on her too often. We're friendly, but it's very difficult for her to put aside what I did.
Since no one else knows, it doesn't give me many times to be a wolf again. Every once in a while, I sneak off and just enjoy it again. I love to run as a wolf, and even though Kairi didn't exactly approve of it when she knew, I still hunt from time to time as well.
Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of always hunting in the same place, and some local residents started to notice. We actually got asked to investigate 'strange attacks on local wildlife' not too long ago because of that. You've no idea how difficult it was to try not to seem like I knew. I tried to push people off the trail that it was a wolf doing it, but I've since had to try and find somewhere else to hunt to let things subside.
I still observe the ritual, of course. Kathann and I sometimes have some wide-ranging conversations, not that they solve anything. Once in a while he comes to visit me instead, trying to be human again. He sticks out like a sore thumb when he does, and he's terrible when meeting someone new, but I've been trying to get him over that. I don't think he really understands humans, but having seen it from the wolven point of view I can see why it's so difficult for him.
What will happen now? I'll probably go on the same way I always have, and keep on doing what I do best, occasionally taking on the odd vampire, and keeping my secret. At least this way, I know some of you know. If you ever happen to run across me, go ahead and stop for a bit – it'll give me a chance to talk with someone a bit more normal who also knows, not a God or an ex-vampire.
Well, that's pretty much it. Now you know the whole tail – tale, sorry. If you think I've missed something, just say so. I'm pretty sure I got all of it though.