Two moons over, p.5
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       Two Moons Over, p.5

           Levi Shipley
 
olfactory. Not even a similar scent to the werewolves presented itself, only rotten wood and spiced rum. Next, detecting their sober talk over the inundation of street garble would've been no challenge. Alas, no such signs presented themselves, forcing Cecil's search elsewhere.

  As he departed, he took note to the dirt road. It was well worn by feet, but unscathed by vehicle. The path broadened with forest gilding its brim. No speed limit signs and no median. Could it be that Destursha has no motor vehicles? Comforting to Cecil, walking was more peaceful than his travel methods on Earth, and it would no longer tire him to do so.

  Every quarter of a mile or so, Cecil would howl if no other travelers were nearby. After his third bestial cry, fellow journeyers dwindled. Perhaps they feared feral wolves from the dark woods and sought shelter. Whatever the case, his search went unimpeded though unsuccessful. A first road marker presented itself "Hurlinge 35T." He hadn't even an estimate of how far that was, but he would find out.

  Two

  Longer than he expected. He left Ectoplas at dusk, but now it was well into the late hours. Leaves blocked the twin moons' light and cast deep shadows on Cecil's path. His night vision had improved since his changing, but darkness such as this retained a degree of inconvenience. From what bit he could see through a gapping in the canopy, two large moons hovered above Destursha. One gave a pale dusty glow like that of Earth's but with a slight orange tint, while the other radiated a dim aqua florescence. This dream lived its day and more. A dream it could not be.

  He had been distant to the Order. In the guise of subconsciousness, he disregarded, but now they were his only allies. He should have stood against Arthur for Salina. He should have acknowledged their warnings. He should have prepared. It was late for remorse. One is only strong if he can push through his weakness. Cecil would mend his mistakes and become strong; he would find them.

  The night seemed heavier and more stretched than he'd known (a side effect of sleeplessness). A new marker emerged from dim light and weighty shadow. Only two "T"s from Hurlinge. Cecil's pace quickened, but he stopped as he passed the sign. A howl in the sylvan darkness, clear but far. He howled in echo. The distant canine responded, bringing Cecil to an inhuman sprint. This speed . . . this power. Am I still human? He did not believe so.

  His mind wandered back to the dogman in Ectoplas. Cecil demonstrated what only a small fit of his rage could perform. He needed to be careful. It's a wonder Cecil didn't snap his neck. I must learn to restrain myself. The howl resonated again, nearer this time. Cecil forced along. He found one of them.

  Hodge dropped from a tree and tackled Cecil. "It's about time someone showed up." He stood up, brushing off dirt from his jeans as did Cecil.

  "What was the point of attacking me like that?" Cecil pulled a few twigs from his ears.

  "Mostly to prepare you to be alert," Hodge snickered, "also I thought it'd be funny."

  "Well, it wasn't to me." Finishing cleaning himself, Cecil turned his attention to Hodge. "Have you seen any of the others?" A leaf fell from the canopy onto his nose. Cecil shook his elongated snout.

  "No. We were separated by the energy flux, or that’s what I’m going to call it. Don't worry, they'll turn up before too long. We should head to Hurlinge. A few of them are likely waiting to regroup there." He motioned to Cecil. The walk to the road was silent. A steady wind rustled the foliage and brought with it the odor of rot, a scent reminiscent of Earth's thick woods.

  "Hold up," Cecil halted at the road "at least explain to me what's going on." He stepped in front of Hodge and raised a padded palm. The path remained dark, but animals in nocturnal wake scurried about their business. From the trees they watched the werewolves in fear. Some ran into their dens, a few perched on branches like statues to hide, while a few stalked behind in search of leftover food from these travelers. Theirs was nearly a society, but the humans had more distracting matters.

  Hodge scanned the area and flared his nostrils. After rotating his ears, he replied. "I suppose there's time. You really should know, and it won't take long to explain." The wind changed, and the air frosted. He removed himself from the road, taking seat on a stump in a log clearing. Hodge scratched at his cheek. "Where to start . . . the beginning would make the most sense. Well, that starts with my old friend, Siegfried."

  "And Roy?" Cecil's sarcasm couldn't be held back.

  "No, but that's a good one. He, his wife and children, and Nelrene and I lived outside the Black Forest. We were shepherds. Good ones, I think. There were only one or two hired hands whose names elude me, due to low predator activity. I swear we didn't lose a single sheep until after the Hunt." He took a breath.

  "The Hunt? For your sheep?"

  "I was still talking, you know. I still need air for speaking. Just hold your horses." Hodge readjusted himself and grunted. "You see, there was a breed of wolf that lived near our pastures. I know what you're thinking; it's the same thing I thought. Wolves are the idealized enemies of shepherds and their sheep. However, that wasn't the case with these ones." He paused a moment. "Don't get me wrong, they were capable. In fact, they may have been the most intimidating wolves I've ever seen. But these canines were . . . how do I put it? Not savage, not even around helpless sheep. We had almost an agreement in which we didn't disturb them in their territory, and they left our sheep. Personally, I think they did more than that. Not once did I have to chase off a bear, that is, not until after the Hunt." Another breath. Deeper than the last. A gust willed a wisp of leaves to pass over head. "As best as we tried to keep them secret, people inevitably caught wind of them. Siegfried and I did what we could to misguide the hunters, but we were mere shepherds and they were riflemen. Beyond the wolves' size, their coats were very valuable. Ever see a black and metallic blue wolf? Of course not. Poor beasts were hunted into extinction for fur trade. Worse yet is no record of them survived, which is partially from my own efforts, and those hides of theirs have lost the battle with time. Thankfully the ones that did were assumed to be dyed. Only evidence of them . . . is you and the rest of us werewolves."

  Cecil absorbed as best he could. The clearing displayed his coat in magnification. Same as those wolves. "So how is it that we're here? Furthermore, how are we werewolves?"

  "That's the next part of the story," Hodge stood, "but I'll retell that once we get to Hurlinge. It'll be good for your patience that way."

  Should've expected something like that. He probably doesn't trust me and is withholding information to keep me from turning on him. Ridiculous. Cecil began to pick up on the fauna. Little varmints of all sorts chattered away, nearly making Cecil plug his ears. What could be so important at night? He strode along, legs moving effortlessly. Cecil wondered if he were even moving. Without stressing his thighs in even the mildest way, he was unsure whether or not he made progress. Left right left right left right. On and on went the road.

  Cathrine used to like walks like these at night. She really enjoyed the little critters too. I'd only put up with them for her. Hurlinge came into view. Massive buildings and towers filled the valley ahead. Cecil thought back to the great metropolitan cities of earth, how similar they were. Even now the city hummed between the mountains and wood. Such a place built for industry could never sleep. Ectoplas was a foreign place, but Cecil watched Hurlinge illuminate the cloudy sky in green tones and dirty ambers. Spot lights and disco spectrums played in the green, making clouds turn into liquid color with hypnotic rhythm.

  "You know we can walk right in like this, yes?" Hodge said while taking in the landscape.

  "Huh? Yeah. They think we're wolf dogmen." Cecil returned from his trance. "Bet it feels weird to be in front of people like this."

  Hodge gave Cecil a wolfish grin and nod. "Yah, it's something like one of those nightmares where you're in front of a group and for one reason or another, you forgot to wear clothes."

  Th
ere was no gate, no castle wall. Nostalgia of childhood visits to skyscrapers quickened in Cecil. If trains and autos were part of the city vibe, one would very well mistake it for Las Vegas. Dance music met their ears and played utter nonsense. Prostitutes openly showcased themselves along the street, and more than one drug dealer gave the lycanthropes a crooked smile. None seemed to rest. Even children were participating in the corrupt delight of vandalism and thuggery. Perhaps Hurlinge was less family oriented than Vegas.

  About halfway through the city proper, Cecil noticed a small goblin child crying and sitting against a shop building. The boy was emaciated, sickly, and panicked. His left ear docked and bruised arms showed clear signs of abuse. His cranium was spherical, almost like a caricature. His teeth were stained yellow and numbered few. Dark crescents underlined bloodshot eyes, and so threadbare were his clothes that tape patched most of his body. Attempts at words were made in sobbing, but they were so garbled by tears he might as well have his head underwater.

  Cecil shuddered in empathy. This was a sorrow the striped werewolf found shattering. "We can't leave him here like that."

  Hodge paid the boy no mind. "Nope. Don't think about it. He'll slow us down, and we
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