A noise woke him, and he felt a presence around him. Opening his eyes, he raised his head, sniffing, catching animal scent. It was strong, from all directions. His heightened senses told him wolf. Fully awake and alert, he moved slowly, so as not to startle the creatures. Six of them, both male and female, ringed round him, waiting.
“I mean you no harm, friends,” he spoke in a low, conversational tone. “Just passing through.”
The animals stirred, shifting uneasily. The lead male approached boldly, leaping to land at Raven’s feet. Snarling, the wolf drew near, his pack following him, pulling their circle closer. Fury, fueled by fear, buffeted against Raven’s consciousness. Unless he was very careful, he would die here. The alpha clearly felt that his territory had been invaded, and was taking action.
Raven drew a knife from his boot, moonlight glinted on the steel blade. “I don’t want to have to kill you,” he said softly, gazing into the silver-blue eyes of the alpha. “But I will. I’ll move along….” He reached for his bag, and the alpha struck.
Raven leaped aside, rolling to his feet, knife poised to attack. The alpha snarled, jumping at him again, jaw gaping, saliva dripping. Hungry for blood, he couldn’t control his rage. He landed on Raven’s shoulders, massive jaws struggling for the man’s throat.
Raven couldn’t bring the knife into play, but he could grapple. Glad the others hung back, he reached his left hand behind his head, grabbing the alpha by the scruff. The wolf growled, turning to bite Raven’s arm. The teeth sank in, drawing blood. The others, lured by the scent, growled, their circle closing even more.
Swinging the beast to the ground, Raven slashed at it, then stabbed. The alpha hung on. A younger male, with golden eyes, came near, ready to jump. Raven stabbed the alpha once more. This time, the knife stuck between ribs. As the second wolf sprung, Raven hurled the alpha’s body at it. Yelping, the youngster retreated.
Angry and in pain, Raven swung in a tight circle, roaring. Something twitched in his mouth. Roaring once more, he showed fangs far more impressive than theirs. With a ululating cry, he leaped at the golden eyed wolf, tearing into him. The blood was hot, musky, fresh. Although his victim struggled, Raven hung on, drinking hungrily. Casting the limp body aside, he raised his head, howling at the moon.
“I never drank wolf before,” he snarled at the pack. “But now I have a taste for you. Be gone, if you would live!”
Startled the wolves scattered, running into one another to escape. Raven watched, laughing. When they were gone, he drank again, draining both bodies. Dragging them away from camp, he dropped them in the woods. The wolves could do as they chose, with their dead.
Bathing in the crisp sea water, Raven washed the blood and gore from his body and clothing. His great coat was damaged, and his shirt torn at the throat. Having no needle and thread to mend them, he laid them on the rocks to dry.
Naked now, he took stock of his injuries, pleased to see they healed quickly, leaving no scars. At least he would nave no wounds to draw unwanted attention. Once the sun rose, his clothing dried quickly. He made a meal of trail food and tea, shook off the sand and dressed. On his way again, he whistled tunes from his youth, setting a brisk pace.
The remainder of his trip was uneventful. He arrived in town at dusk, stopping at a tavern for the night. Glad he’d been able to salvage his gold from the ship, as well as liberating that of the captain and passengers, he was well healed, and could eat a good meal. When he registered for his room, he asked the innkeeper for directions to the docks.
The man, who was about his age, gave him polite instructions. “Ain’t safe for a gentleman like you, this time of night, sir. Strange doings at the docks, this hour.”
The man looked furtive and leaned across the bar. “It’s said the dead walk at night, sir.”
“Surely that’s an exaggeration.”
“Not seen it myself, but customers talk! I’m doing a bang up business these days, as I’m the first establishment outside their territory. The tales I’ve heard, would fair turn your hair white!”
“My thanks, friend.” Raven turned to go, then faced the barman again. “Is there a silver smith about?”
“Three doors down. He opens at six o’clock.”
“Thank you,” Raven slid a coin to the man.
“Do you require anything else? A bath, perhaps? Laundry?”
“First, a clothier, if one is still open at this hour. Then a bath.”
“As it happens, my lady wife is the finest seamstress in these parts. What do you require?”
“A suit, shirt, linens. And my coat mended.”
“Not a problem, sir. this way.” He raised a portion of the bar, guiding Raven through to a comfortable room. A warm fire crackled and danced in the hearth. A pretty woman, stout with pregnancy, smiled at them.
©2021 Dellani Oakes