(Note: This is an overall, ambitious rewrite of my ‘Hound’ Story. Same general themes, with some different plot-points, but overall, a lot better writing quality.)
… … … … …
They call my kind, ‘Hellhounds.’
We are Hellion beasts.
Born from the Abyss. A monster with a heart made of fire and eyes that burn bright as rubies. My claws rip through plate armor and my howl calls up the voice of the damned. My strength is overwhelming, my gait can outpace horses, and blades mean nothing to me. I exist to stalk, hunt, and die.
That last bit is something that’s become quite elusive for me. I’m pretty old for a Hellhound. We usually die sooner, rather than later. It’s not because my species is short lived or anything like that, it’s because my sister hounds are all mindless idiots.
Hellhounds hunt and fight like every moment is the very last, hacking and clawing, growling with flames ripping out of their eyes. A hellhound doesn’t bother with defending when there’s an opportunity to attack with unhinged malice backed up by endless aggression. It’s why I’m different. That kind of berserker’s gambit isn’t my style. It’s something to be avoided.
Unlike them, I can think and I can adapt. More than anything, if my old age has taught me anything, it’s taught me that I can choose not to kill. That damningly enticing slaughter-song of the call to carnage that so many of my kind are enslaved to is absent from my mind. Some would call me broken, because of this.
There is something special about me. My tail is streaked with stripes of silver- A Silvered Hound. This is supposedly a damned rare, if not outright legendary, event. To me, it doesn’t matter. A bit of silver fur trailing from above my ass to the tip of my tail doesn’t change anything for me, who still has to hunt, still has to find clean water, still has to shit and sleep like any other living thing.
I’m a long way from what was called home for a spell- a fading ember of a dream. The mountains to the east weren’t where I was born. They were just where I decided to settle down. Of my birthplace, I can’t remember much, but sometimes find myself dreaming of red cracked earth and pillars of fire. Aside from that, there’s no solid memory of my very first hunting grounds. That was so many damn years ago… I can’t even remember just how many, a few hundred I think? Shouldn’t mull over it too much… I still have a ways to go before I can settle down and rest for the rest of the day.
Thankfully, the hard part is just behind me. Can’t be honest and say that my wandering has any real purpose, can’t make any great statement about my journey so far, only that I’m in exile. I don’t want to go over it any more than I have to, and hopefully, just like the memories of my birthplace, these memories will fade as well. But, it has all lead to me being here- upon a cliff, overlooking a pretty grove populated with fruit trees that surround a village of Humans- I can smell them from a ways off, burnt wood, salted meat, and endless anxiety.
The hamlet is mostly home to small two-story lodges built next to a wide dirt road that travels north to south. There are smaller paths branching off the main road, leading to smaller cottages and a few farms with granaries. It must be a fishing village, if the expansive docks are anything to go by, and along the coast I can see fishing boats cresting subtle waves with nets dragging through the water as their sails bellow at full.
It hits me then, that this is the first time I’ve ever seen the ocean. A vast all encompassing expanse of blue and green, stretching over the horizon, and, as much as I claim to be different from my sister Hellhounds, I’m all too alike in how I respond. I cock my head and give it only a few seconds of observation. No epiphany, no awed staring, just casual dismissal. It’s not the ocean that holds my attention anyways; it’s the humans, their activities and what can be seen from atop the cliff. Even from a distance it’s easy to make out a ship pulling into the dock.
The men on the boat are hauling nets filled with fish as women and children come to collect the bounty in handcarts. The smells hit me with a fresh breeze rolling from the coast. Fires are being started, the scent of burning wood, then there is the smell of dusty old fish wafting off of drying racks being brought out. Harvest time.
The town must be pretty damn prosperous because of its fishing trade, even me, a hellhound, can see that. They don’t have any walls. It’s hard to miss that. They have no fortifications, no defensive structures, no guardhouses, these things are familiar but they have nothing like them. They don’t have anything more than a few picket fences to corral goats and sheep. It would be easy for me to slaughter them. They wouldn’t be able to put up a fight at all.
It’s early in the morning. The sun is just beginning its climb. My claws flex, scraping against each other, one at a time. It sounds like a butcher honing the edge of his cleaver. It would be so damn easy to break them, I could do it in just under half an hour with time left for me to tear every structure they’ve ever built to the ground.
I’ve done it plenty enough times before. It’s in my nature, after all. Shaking my head, I deftly jump from outcropping to outcropping, scaling down the cliff face with ease before finally vanishing into the underbrush of the groves. There’s a collection of small crystal-clear rivers that flow and twist down from the snow tipped mountains that were once called home. Under the twilight spell of the gold kissed autumn leaves, the streams seem to be made of running gold.
My ears swivel and turn, and there is the songs of the birds and the hum of bees as they ventured from flower to flower- alighting off of apple blossoms and huckleberries. There is the smell of early morning dew hanging from the gossamer thin webs of spiders; they shine like stars that could only be seen in daylight. Off in the distance among the trunks of venerable apple trees, there is a heard of razorhorn deer.
This is a paradise garden, likely the old home of fairies and other fay creatures, but now abandoned when Man came to rule it. Even so, it’s still majestic; I can feel earthly magic humming through the roots of the grasses and the branches of the trees. I don’t belong here, with my ragged black hair, russet and coal fur, and charcoal skin.
I’m an agent of revenge, a jet-black hound of vengeance. My sole purpose in life is to hunt those that have gone unpunished; the only reason ever why a hellhound should ever be in the land of the fruitful- where all the women are fair maidens and all the men proud lords- is to reap a grisly harvest measured in mountains of gore.
I’m not here to reap a harvest; I’m not here to even hunt any humans unless they get in my way.
I’m here because I have nowhere else to go, and it was the easiest direction to head after almost dying from a grievous mauling. I wade through tall grass that comes up to my hip. The ground beneath my paws is fertile and moist, perfect for the orchards that grow in such abundance here. Ducking under low hanging branches I perk my ears and listen closely, only stopping when I can clearly hear the raucous of the village. This is as far as I am willing to go.
My sisters wouldn’t have stopped, they would’ve fallen to all fours and charged right into the center of the village, all fire and brimstone. They would have destroyed the town, but if the legends of the Silvered Ones, I apparently would have made an even more gruesome spectacle. Yet, for a Silvered One, I’m remarkably oblique in my ‘Legendary-ness’ in that I don’t really want to be a legend.
I stop short of the village, and from the shade of the groves I approach until I am comfortable in distance. It’s just as idyllic as I thought it to be up close as I imagined it from a distance, children are racing up and down the street, they’re wearing moccasins made from deer leather and wearing cloth tunics and leggings. They’re happy, these kids.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happy human before- they’re playing a game with a ball made of barrel tar, throwing it as high as it can go, and then running to catch it before it can hit the ground. I stay hidden and watch them play. It’s relaxing. For a moment I’m lost in memories of a windswept mountain, the scrawny humans that lived there existed in constant fear, never laughing, never speaking, they knew they were prey and it ruled their lives. One of the boys kicks the ball as it comes back down, it goes sailing- towards me, I grunt as it lands a few yards away in short-grass. I go still and silent as one of the kids runs over and grabs the ball; I shrink back beneath a spread of ferns.
‘He’s going to notice me.’
I hope the shade of the brambles hides me, but I’m not exactly discrete.
The boy hesitates, looking in my general direction with clear unease written across his face.
‘Just move along. There’s nothing to see here.’
Human children are like that; they’re always able to tell when something is wrong is nearby. I most definitely count as something Wrong. There aren’t many things out there that could be any worse than me. The other kids call to him. He stares into the orchards, and I can’t help but wonder what it is he’s thinking. Does he know I’m in here? Or is it just a feeling? I can’t tell, and likely never will know.
His friends call again, he backs away until he turns and runs back to the group carrying the ball. They start up their game again, but this time they direct their throws away from the orchard until they disappear up the street behind several cabins. Only then I can relax, it was stupid for me to get this close, I don’t know what I was thinking.I feel a yawn coming over me; the ferns are starting to feel itchy against my back.
I retreat further back into the depths of the orchards where the branches of the trees begin to intertwine with one another, making a living roof of leaves and hanging fruits. In this deep, there is plenty of underbrush and the tall grasses mask me when I lay down, as good a spot as I can find. Turning around in circles, I trample the ground at the shaded base of a tree and gather a couple ferns to make myself a nest. When I lay down to sleep away, something is immediately off, the moment I shut my eyes they snap open again.
I turn over and curl up, my silvery tail resting over my eyes- that doesn’t work either, so I toss again and face away from the tree I’m curled up underneath. That doesn’t work either. I roll onto my back and kick out my legs and that doesn’t work either. I quickly become restless, I sniff, letting the scent of the orchards fill my mind. Something is missing. I shut my eyes and sigh angrily. I thought I had kicked the habit.
I get up and tramp away from my nest until I’m a good ways away, find a tree stump, raise my tail, squat and mark my claim. I do this several more times before I’m satisfied and when I stalk back to the nest, feeling far more relaxed now, I can’t help but also feeling like a damn puppy waddling out of the den and into the wilderness for the very first time. There aren’t any predators this far to the west, at least nothing that could ever pose a threat to me.
Low-beasts like bears and wolves would never tangle with a hellhound even if they just randomly stumbled across me; I’ve no reason to scent mark an area like back in the mountains. But, I guess it’s just something to help me feel more at ease, a clear and distinct message to anything that this area is mine. I roll over and curl up, it’s still early morning, but I’ve been traveling hard and slept little.
Sleep comes easy now, but it’s never restful.
Daybreak, the very next morning, I’m ripped from my sleep by something jabbing painfully into my side. My eyes flutter open, and a growl is ripping out of my throat as I lurch upright, claws cutting into my palms. I inhale, sucking in the flavors of my surroundings and instantly I recognize the familiar scent of Manfolk.
I turn my head, and my fiery eyes show me a boy dressed in a weather-stained brown tunic that is fraying at the seams and has clearly been re-sewn many times over. He’s, barefoot and filthy, his hands are callused and worn, his skin is sunburnt tan. He’s holding a stick, the tip of which I am very much familiar with. He’s as average as average could be, a youthful face, dusted with freckles and innocence.
He’s nothing like the gaunt, hollow children I’m familiar with. Even so, childish vigor shouldn’t be holding him upright when faced with me. He should be piss-scared with a dark stain running down his leggings and trickling to the ground in a puddle of instinctual terror. None of this is happening. Not so much as a sniffle.
He pokes me again.
I’m at a loss for what to do.
I go with what feels right, and grab the stick, snapping it in half, putting an end to that game. I’m half tempted to shake my head and rub my eyes, as if this was some sort of illusion that had been cast over me, but my senses don’t lie. I take a guess at his age, maybe no older than eight, ten, if I’m being generous. If I can recall correctly humans reach maturity at fourteen years? Or was it more?
I drop that line of thinking when the kid looks up at me with doe eyed ignorance, and that’s it, he just stares, curious and mute, cocking his head and leaning side to side as if to get a better look at me, I raise a brow and say nothing, folding my arms under my chest I look back down at him. I’m taller than he is standing even sitting like this. My tail flicks behind me, whipping exclusively to the right before resetting and repeating; it always does this whenever I’m confused or uncertain.
This isn’t normal in multiple ways, the first and most obvious being the fact that I’m not pinning this kid to the ground and ripping his throat out. I can chalk that up to me just being apathetic, but that doesn’t explain why this kid is here, I mean, sure, I would understand if he stumbled across me, kids like to wander, so I’m told. But on discovery, wouldn’t any normal brat flip out? Wouldn’t they run and scream? All the ones before did. So what’s the issue with this brat? He isn’t running, he’s just standing there all doe-eyed, like this was the most natural thing in the world.
I don’t know how to process this. I’ve always been of the belief that Human children have a natural sense of when things are Wrong, some more than others. It would make sense that they would, I can’t think of any other way the species would survive without having something like that. Humans are just so squishy and weak, they have no claws or fangs, they can’t fly or see in the dark, their hearing and sense of smell sucks, so they have to have something that gives them and edge, having some sixth sense is the only thing I can think of, a sense for when danger is nearby.
This kid- his alarm should have been going haywire right now. I’m a Hellion creature, a Hellhound, we we’re born out of the Abyss- the interstice between worlds, our souls by their very nature are aberrations that defy nature at the base level. Even beings of Chaos don’t feel as Wrong as Hellion creatures do. But despite all that, this damn kid is standing right in front of me, and not so much as flinching. It isn’t the kid who feels something wrong- it’s Me. I’m the one who thinks there’s something seriously screwy with this situation, I’m the one who feels uneasy, me, the Hellhound.
I made damn sure to keep my little nest far away from the village, I wanted to avoid situations like this, and this is pretty far for a kid to wander unsupervised. That raises the question of why he’s here, did he wander into the orchards and get lost or something? The grass can get pretty tall and he looks short enough that he might have gotten turned around, but then if he’s lost, what should I do? Do I point him in back towards the town- what if he tells everyone about me? They might not believe him, but what if they do? I wouldn’t be in any danger but I’m not in the mood to get into a fight- I rarely am in the mood for something like that. I guess I could just kill him-
And then any further thoughts I might’ve had are immediately put on hold when the kid looks around, and then, without ceremony grabs at the tuft of black and rouge fur just above and between my tits.
The birds stop chirping, the bugs stop humming, even the wind stops blowing for a moment, like the entire world is holding its breath and waiting for my reaction.
Not much gets me. But this… This…
Oblivious to all of this, the boy just keeps squeezing and tugging my fur through his fingers, my fur is coarse and rough, and maybe it’s comforting for a rural boy like him? I don’t do anything- I can’t even gawk, the sheer audacity required for him to do this is… Well, it just doesn’t exist.
I have to do something; I purse my lips and take his hand away. Right now, for some reason, I’m all too aware of my strength, my claws lightly- gently- closing over his hand in a soft but firm grip. If I wanted to, I could easily break every bone in his hand- ‘Hell, I can break every bone in his body-‘ with just a fraction of my strength. I can only find myself frowning in clear indecision as I take a step back from this weird, weird, little boy.
I look around- as if that would somehow help, like the answer was just waiting out of sight. So, not knowing what else to do, I decide to try and speak. “Uh” I begin, my voice sounds like stone being dragged over rough-hewn gravel. Low, and casually menacing with the threat of immanent violence. It doesn’t help that I can’t talk all that well, the fact that I could even talk a bit at all, was testament of how different I was to my sister hounds. But, for some reason right now I’m laced with doubt and softer than usual.
“Lost?” I tentatively ask. “Uh, I eat you up. R-Rawr…” I raise my hands, spread my claws and bare my fangs, my iron hard implements seem to absorb morning light. Why is this kid here? Why haven’t I gut him? Why am I not using his ribs as toothpicks? I growl, clear my head, and sigh, “Leave. Go.” I try to push him away, and behind me my tails flicks, he catches sight of my silvery appendage, and a grin breaks across his face like a new dawn. ‘Shit-‘
He reaches behind me and I freeze up as he clamps a hand around my tail, ‘Hey- wait no, don’t you-!’ I try to turn as the kid pulls himself close and buries his face deep into the fur of my stupid tail. ‘H-Hey! Get off!’ I growl. ‘Settle down, will y-!’ I pull at his head as I whip around, uncharacteristically worried about my claws nicking his scalp, I stumble back as he latches on further with both hands- he’s giggling, like this is some sort of fucking game to him. It’s too late as my balance fails and I fall over. My back hits the ground with a heavy thump that sends leaves swirling up around the kid and me.
I growl, low and haunting, and yet the boy still clings to my tail, even going so far as to crawl onto my lap. He looks up at me, grinning toothily, apparently pleased with his minor victory. Again, I can only hesitate. I’ve lived for a long time, long enough that my memory has started to paste over much of my past until only the barest, flickering hints of embers among the ashes of my younger years remain. Even with such an eclipsed past I can say for certain that this is something that I have never experienced before.
‘Will he just leave already?’
He doesn’t leave, of course, that would have meant that something good actually happened to me for once.
For the rest of the day, he’s right next to me until dusk begins and tinny sounding bells can be heard from the village. He stretches out from his lazy nap, using my thighs as a pillow, and toddles off in the direction of the village, but not before hugging me around the waist. With him gone I bury my head in my paws and massage my aching temples.
I thought that was the end of it, I thought he would tell everyone about the Hellhound he found. For that entire night I was listening with ears perked for the sound of men trying to stalk through the orchards with pitchforks and hammers.
Nothing of the sort came.
Something made me stick around, some sort of base gut instinct anchoring me to the orchards when my more pragmatic side was shouting at me to run and find somewhere else to stalk.
I’m surprised at myself, why I’m still here. When I let the kid go, I was under the impression that he would tell everyone about me and they’d then try to run me off. I had planned to be long gone before anything like that happened but yet, here I am, the very next morning, sprawled out in my little bed of moss sticks and ferns. I can only guess that he either said nothing about his little encounter with me, or maybe, and more likely, is that no one believed him.
After all, just looking at the area is enough to make a human grow into a false sense of security. It looks like there hasn’t been any sort of conflict here in ages. They have no reason to think that it would ever change, despite myself knowing all the wiser. He’d left yesterday afternoon, just before nightfall, and I had thought that to be the end of it.
I thought it was just going to be some strange one-off encounter, and nothing more would come of it. I was hoping to just forget the whole thing.
I’m not that lucky, and here I am, trying to ignore the presence of that same little boy from yesterday. I’m lying splayed out on my bed of ferns, all too aware of the pair of eyes locked onto my back. But more accurately, my tail.
He’s hiding behind a tree, or, well, what he thinks is hiding. He keeps leaning around the trunk and looking at me, making all sorts of racket as he does this, scraping against bark, snapping twigs underfoot and shifting grasses. Whenever I lazily look back over my shoulder towards him with clear annoyance, he ducks back behind the trunk- always a second too late. I wish he would just go away.
I know for a fact that nothing could would come of this, huffing in annoyance I get the idea that maybe he’ll lose interest if I just ignore him. I curl up and close my eyes, faking like I’m going back to sleep, and, given enough time, maybe he’ll give up on his game and go home. That’s the hope, but, I know better than most that hope is a stupid concept. In a matter of seconds I hear his feet padding against the grass and feel the steps of his footfalls.
My ear twitches, I growl, trying to dissuade him from approaching but it’s useless. I open an eye and stare up at that damned cheerful face of youth that I recall so clearly from yesterday. He’s standing over me and looking down. He doesn’t have a stick this time, so that’s a positive, but I still can’t get over the fact that he’s not scared of me. It just doesn’t make sense, it’s awkward, only growing more so when he settles down next to me, in my own nest.
And then he starts grabbing at my fur again.
I huff and roll over, if I just ignore him, maybe he’ll just leave when he gets bored- I just have to play the long game. He shifts his attention to my tail, I grate my fangs, I shut my eyes and try to think about this rationally- why is he doing this? Who is this kid? What’s his deal? I lose my train of thought before it can even begin when He touches my ears.
This gets a reaction out of me, a bad one- I whine, “Awooo-!” I cant help from arching my back and trying to bend my ears away from him.
He laughs, a boyish little giggle of pure delight and inside I die a little. He goes to provoke me further by touching my furry ears. I try to lean away, no point in trying to pretend to be asleep or uninterested when he’s being this hands-on.
“He-Hey!” I bark to no avail, he manages to get a hand on one of my ears and that’s enough to get another pathetic sounding whine out of me. That’s enough- I sit up, the kid was half perched on top of me and rolls off- still laughing at my expense. I shake my head, pawing hair out of my face with a miserable expression- me, a Hellhound, being made to whine like that? I’d rather be dead than let word spread around of that ever having happened.
I glower down at this boy, he lets my displeasure roll off of him, grinning up at me like a town drunk- completely unaffected by anything the world throws at him. I shake my head and sigh as he scoots over next to me, leaning his face against my side. Why does this have to happen to me?
It’s another day, another early morning in the orchard. I’m up to my knees in the fast flowing river, with curses spilling from my lips as I uselessly splash myself with icemelt.
Today, I’m trying my hand at fishing- or, well, to be more precise, I’m trying, and failing. The water is cold despite the season, but my anger is keeping me plenty warm. I’m not good at this- I’m not good at all. “Gah!” I snap, as I succeed in further splashing ice-cold water all across my body without even getting close to grabbing one of the silvery little bastards that flit about just beneath the surface.
I snarl- my frustration making itself known in the corners of my eyes as vivid red sparks and embers erupt momentarily, the calling-card of all Hellhounds. I hear a commotion from the riverbank and I can only languidly gaze in growing exasperation at the all too familiar Boy. ‘What’re you smilin’ at?’ I bark and go back to peering into the glassy surface disturbed only by the current and my presence.
Every now and then I can see a flash of silver beneath the surface and I strike at a presumed fish only to end up with handfuls of water that are just as fleeting as the prey that I’m after. Another glint beneath, and I strike, and like every time before I succeed only in sending up a splash of water that drenches me even further as the silvery scales of my prospect meal slips away yet again.I don’t know which is growling louder; me, or my stomach. It’s a tossup at this point. The stifled giggling from the bank doesn’t help either.
‘Ah, quit it! You noisy brat!’ I scowl. I’m drenched and hungry, not a good combination. I’m about ready to give up and sun myself when the boy catches my attention, waving at me. He’s produced a length of string from his frayed tunic, at one end he’s tied a length of bramble-vine.
From under a rock, he’s found a worm that he ties around the brambles. Without ceremony he tosses his line upstream, not even five seconds have passed before the string goes taught. I can only watch in incredulity as he pulls his string in, hand over hand. I’m left staring as he pulls a hearty wriggling fish out of the river, securely stuck on the brambles. I’m not sure what expression I made, but his?
His face is so damn smug.
The Kid knows what he’s doing, and in minutes he’s put together a campfire. I’ve watched humans do this countless times before, but I’ve never really been able to copy them to much success, though I have tried- which is more than I can say for my sisters. The closest I can come to making a fire is by scraping my claws together, a shower of sparks that goes everywhere, but never in that strange controlled fashion that humans are able to make with just a few rocks or pieces of wood.
My talents are only good when it comes to destruction.
The kid has three fish, skewered on sticks and propped up against the fire. Normally I would just eat the damn things raw, but the Kid was the one who caught them, so I sit there with my arms crossed, immeasurably grumpy as I watch the fish cook, slowly, agonizingly slowly- but the smell…
I glance at the boy, the grin hasn’t left the boys face since.
It’s… actually rather cute.
I can’t lie. He’s beaming, staring up at me, more than pleased with himself. I give in. ‘Okay- Okay- Fine, I guess that was a pretty neat trick, I mean, I would have gotten mine eventually, but I guess…’ My thoughts trail off, I wasn’t fooling anyone, sure, I could have gotten lucky once or twice but how long would it take?
The boy smiles even wider, scooting around the campfire he sidles up next to me and leans against my arm. I have half the mind to tell him off, then I look at the fish grilling against the fire, and sigh. He’s earned this much, I guess…
It’s hard, but I manage to keep from smiling all too much.
Morning dawns, not a cloud in the sky. My ears perk up, hearing the familiar traipsing through the underbrush. Turning around I see the boy clamber into the clearing. The Kid grins wildly, seeing that I’m already up and waiting for him. Giggling, he runs across the clearing and jumps, tackling me to the ground, squealing in laughter, I can’t keep myself from grinning. I sprawl back across the forest floor from the kid trying to ball me over, I let him.
To think that I tried turning him away, in the beginning…
It’s been over a week. The boy hasn’t missed a morning, coming every day. He’s rarely late, always bumbling noisily through the bushes just as the sun peaks over the horizon, early in the morning when the dew is glistening on the leaves and a faint mist curls over the ground. I find myself smiling more, grinning in spite of myself. He brought another string and bramble today, and he’s got a pocket full of worms, time for breakfast.
The Kid must either be a natural, or just have damn good luck, because only half an hour later he’s pulled six fish out of the water- none of the are that big, but the number has to count for something. I managed to make a fire, albeit, with some help. It took a few attempts, I don’t have human hands, and only now I get the benefit of not having oversized claws. The way the kid works with his slender pink fingers is honestly surprising in how dexterous he is.
Are all humans like that with their fingers? I don’t know, I haven’t exactly spent a lot of time around them trying to find out. Either way with the fire going and the fish grilling -human stomachs were picky- there was some time to kill. I never really bothered try talking to the kid, I never saw the need for it, despite unlike a lotta’ Hellhounds I actually took the time to try and figure out Words. Maybe it was because I was bored of the usual Hellhound methods of communication- barking, snarls, and physical violence. I wasn’t very good at ‘civilized languages,’ but, I could pick out things here and there, and knew one or two words myself. I could pick up the context of conversations I listened in on, but the finer details often escaped me.
So far, the only way I’ve managed to communicate with this kid was through pantomime and grunts. A few words by me here and there, but he’s been fully silent for all of it, cocking his head to the side or whatnot when he didn’t get something. It was okay, I wasn’t much of a conversationalist either, so it worked out. I managed to figure out a few things, nothing spectacular but it was a start. For one, the kids was clearly an Orphan, or homeless. He must’ve lost his parents at sea or something, but he doesn’t seem too strange- on the other hand, he was spending his time in the forest with a Hellhound, so, perhaps my perspective was a bit fucked.
Another thing about the kid I noticed is that he likely had a job, or some chores of some sort. He always leave in the direction of the village farm, and he smelled of animals, pigs and chickens. It stood to reason, that if he was an Orphan, that they put the kids to work on the farm, had to make use of them somehow. That’s all I could work out, and it wouldn’t be much worth trying to ask him, I doubt he would be able to understand me all that much. The Kids a pretty good judge of when the fish were done roasting and he pulls them off the fire and he hands me my sure, my mouth is watering- cooked food wasn’t half bad to be honest. Tucking in like the beast I am, I take a moment to eye the Kid, and I wonder something. What is it that he thinks of me?
What exactly am I to him? Does he even know that I’m a hellhound? A hellion creature? Shit, does he even know what a Hellion is? I’m not sure he does, otherwise I doubt he’d approach me in the first place. My kind don’t have a sterling record, but even if that wasn’t the case, Hellions, Hellhounds in particular, don’t exactly come off as gentle creatures at first glance. The fiery eyes, the savage claws, the matte black fur with red streaks. We’re monstrous, and our nature shows in the ferocity of our appearance.
The only thing I can reason up is that maybe he mistook me for a beastkin, a wolf in particular, I keep hearing that Wolf Beastkin have a good relationship with humans, and can be found protecting human villages in the wild-lands away from the major kingdoms. It still doesn’t answer why he so brazenly walked up to me, for all he knew I could have been one of the savage kinds of Beastkin, rabid and violent. I shake my head, too much thinking, too much speculation. I’m not going to question it right now, or likely ever. I’ve found the boy to be good company so far. I don’t want it to change.
It’s an overcast sky today, a storm had rolled in last night, but it had yet to break, instead simply holding above, biding time with big, dark, angry looking thunderclouds. I couldn’t give less of a shit about the weather.
Anxiety is eating away at me.
The boy hasn’t come. He’s never too early nor ever too late, he’s always on time, but not today. My skin itches, my hackles are raised and my tail is stiff behind me. I have my ears perked, up and listening intently to the sounds of the surrounding forest. My mouth slightly open to draw int he scents, and my eyes look for the slightest movement.
Where could he be? There is a fear in my gut, something that’s telling me that somehow I’m to blame, that I’ve scared him off for some reason, that I’ve offended the boy somehow. It hurts to think about, and I tell myself that it isn’t true. I’m pacing, arms crossed, tense and ready, I need to move, need to do something, but there is nothing to really do, so far, I’ve been kinda relying on the kid for stuff to do, something to… well, be with.
I hear a noise- finally, at last, something- but it’s not anything I wanted to hear.
Crying, or, what sounds like crying. A boy, crying.
It’s the boy.
I didn’t know I could move that fast.
He’s doubled over in the underbrush, clutching his arm, he’s in obvious pain, and If me thundering through the underbrush startled him, he doesn’t show it. I have him hoisted up and pulled close to my chest at once, and then I’m off running again, back to the clearing. He’s crying, sniveling, but oddly silent, save for hoarse whining sounds. Something is wrong, badly wrong. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out what, setting him down in the little alcove in the tree where my bedding is I’m sniffing him over- checking his body, and then I get to his arm. I pull his hand away.
Two tiny red pinpricks, no bigger than a needle.
It’s weird, for a second I’m relived, for a second I feel like laughing- because there’s no way a snake could kill a Hellhound-
-The boy isn’t a Hellhound. I shout back at myself in my head. He’s a Human.
And everything and anything can kill Humans.
I sometimes forget, that humans are more fragile than what I assume. I already think of them as frail little things but in reality they are more like glass dolls. Everything can kill them, even the littlest things, things that I wouldn’t even notice if they were to ever happen to me.
Things like venom.
Idly, it crosses my mind that his hands were dirty, and that he’s got a small cloth coinbag, filled with worms. He must’ve been digging for them, and when he reached under a rock or tree-stump he instead found something far nastier than any worm.
I’m panicking, locked up, frozen, unsure of what to do.
I don’t know jack all about snakebites.
Or, well, maybe…
A memory. A cave in the mountains, we were hunting, a caravan of humans had been in the area, along the mountain path to our home, explorers I think. They had gone into a cave and they didn’t come out, where we were waiting for them in ambush. Some of the younger sisters grew restless, grew angry, they ran in, six of them, I went in after, they were gonna fuck everything up.
We heard sounds, fighting, screams. That got us motivated, got the blood pumping. I still don’t know what it was- that thing, it wasn’t one of the snake people that I’ve heard so much about, it was too big to fit the description, and it was pitched black, a freakish ‘hood’ over its head and burning yellow eyes. It was ripping the adventurers apart, but they must’ve hurt it somewhat because out of the twelve that went in, three were left standing, two off to the side, one bent over the other-
I thought for a second that the man was trying to stab the woman, but then I saw that it wasn’t his knife that had made the two puncture wounds on her leg. He cut her leg over the bites and began to drink the blood, or that’s what I thought he was doing. He spat it out, and repeated the process. I didn’t get a chance to examine further. I only caught a glimpse of his action. The younger sisters ran in, howling and roaring. They caught every one off guard. Trying to remember back, I cant recall how that fight ended, did we win? Or did I escape alone?
It doesn’t matter. All I can do is hope that my gut is pointing me int he right direction. I swallow hard and take a breath. It’s all I’ve got. So I hold him steady, my claw gleams darkly, and though these claws and fangs have been my closest companions all my life, right now, I’m afraid of them. I run the claw across his skin, over the area of the twin pinpricks, and blood blooms as the skin parts like warm butter, barely any resistance at all. The feeling of my claw cutting through this boys flesh it- it-
My heart is beating so damn fast. I can smell the venom. I take his bleeding arm and I bend down, closing my mouth around the wound. I suck and squeeze. He’s squirming, short, pitiful whimpers. It stings to know that I’m hurting him but I need to in order to make sure I can get this venom out of him. I can taste it in the blood that fills my mouth, sickly and virulent. I spit over my shoulder, and I suck and squeeze again, shutting my eyes. I wait until I have a mouth full, then I spit and repeat.
There’s less and less each time, but I know that I haven’t gotten all of it, I can smell, I can taste, trace bits of it still inside him, but there is nothing more I can do. I’ve taken the majority, that much is true. But the amount that is left, I’m not sure. He shudders, and I try and tell myself, that he is a strong boy, he’s not going to die because of a little venom. He won’t. I’ll not let it happen. I stroke his cheek and pull him close into another hug.
Night falls. The storm breaks. Rain comes down in waves, but we have shelter beneath the tree. I’m holding the boy. He’s sickly and feverish, but he hasn’t passed out. It’s the venom, running through his veins. He’s not deathly but he’s suffering. I’m doing what I can to make him feel better, more comfortable. Cold water from the rain, and as much pampering as I can spare. He’s curled in my lap, his head against my breasts, my arms wrapped around his naked, feverish body, exposed to the cool evening air.
I’m stroking his head, running my claws delicately through his hair. I’m not about to let him go home like this. He’ll be spending his time here with me until he’s ready. Sure, I could carry him back to the edge of the forest and let him stumble his way back home, but I couldn’t bare to think it- him having to force himself to walk in order to rest. No. I wouldn’t allow it. A couple of times he’s tried to get me to let him go. Not going to happen. He’s going to stay here right with me, like it or not.
He was retching and heaving all night. All I could do is hold him. My mind was screaming to take him to the village- maybe he could get help there, one of their human healers might have something to help. I was like a statue, frozen with fear, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do anything but hold him tight and try to still his shaking. I felt so helpless. I felt so stupid. I felt so useless.
I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t want to let him go.
I was acting so selfish.
The rain stopped at dawn. The sun rose over the mountains, and he had finally fallen asleep, his fever was going down, but when he woke up he was cramped and cold. The cold, that was something I could solve.
I wrap myself around him, and hold him tight against my body. It wasn’t much, but it was something. It was clear that he was out of the woods, his arm, swollen, but not in any way infected, he could move it at least and he could walk around, but I was there to catch him, he had a few fainting spells and I carried him to the river. He needed to drink something, and this time, I was the one catching the fish, using the yarn and bramble.
I wasn’t as good as he was, but I managed to pull two in. He ate them both, I made sure he did. By this time I was treating him like a pup, carrying him around, feeding him, holding him, the only thing that I wasn’t doing was nursing him, but with the amount of time I spent holding him to my chest I might as well have been, were I lactating. Like a pup he’s as naked as one, His clothes, well, I had rather quickly stripped him when he had grown feverish, I didn’t pay attention to where I threw them and they were left out during the storm, completely soaked.
A fire was made, and they were propped up with sticks next to it, in an attempt to dry them out. In the meantime, I was set on keeping him as warm as possible, holding him in my lap. Now that he was cognizant enough, he clearly was embarrassed about his nudity. I could only smile. It was cute. Rather shyly he covers his boyhood whenever I look at him, giving a sheepish grin that makes me chuckle.
There is some distress in his actions. It’s clear he wants to go back to his home, wherever or whatever that is, but I’m not ready to let go of him yet.
One more night.
Just one more night.
I smell a human- a man.
That’s what wakes me up. I’m silent as my eyes flick open, I don’t make a sound, I simply lay quiet and low in my nest, letting all my senses filter the information of my surroundings into me, telling me everything that I need to know without having to move. It’s early, just before daybreak, I smell smoke and see light filtering through the trees.
Torches, three of them, and the footfalls of men trying to sneak. The boy wakes up next to me, feeling my body tense and my heart pound. He’s groggy, still feeling ill. I’m at a loss of what to do, so I act on instinct, I pull him close to my chest and I back into the dense brush surrounding the clearing, I vanish into the undergrowth. The men are talking, muttering, cursing to each other under their breaths. They come into my clearing, and I take stock, five men, three with torches but all carrying weapons. Hand-axes, hatchets, short bladed swords, and two spears with rusted blunt tips. Now even a threat, more like an insult. Killing them would be so easy…
The boy is awake now, as cognizant as he’ll be. He can make out the torches, the men in the clearing, I place a hand over his mouth- I don’t know why.
I watch the men as they prowl around the clearing, more than a couple times they pass right by me and the boy, and my hackles silently raise. They smell of watery liquor and dried fruit, some of them stumble and swear as their feet catch on exposed roots, half drunk, or just clumsy. The leader among them, a brute of a man with barrel arms and pronounced gut curses, he found my little nest, more importantly he found the strips of the boys tunic I used to dab his forehead with icy water from the river.
He starts shouting, calling out with curses for the ‘little brat.’ Hardly a name for a boy. The boy in question is squirming beneath me, frantic almost, I look down at him questioningly, he looks up at me, desperate. I fail to act in time, caught in indecision, he squirms out of my arms and crawls out into the clearing- I have half a mind to reach out and grab him- pull him back to me and hold him tight.
The men spin around, hearing the noise the boy makes, there’s shouting, the leader, he storms over to the boy and hauls him to his feet by the shoulder. He’s shouting, spittle flying from his mouth, the boy just stands there, taking the abuse thrown at him, and when asked about his disappearance he shakily holds up his snakebitten arm. This doesn’t earn the boy any sympathy- if anything, it just incites the man even more, he lashes out and strikes the boy across the face-
-The men freeze, going silent as the hint of a growl cuts through the clearing, I slap a paw over my mouth, the boy, he’s looking in my direction, discretely shaking his head, telling me no-
‘Is he trying to protect me?’
The leader grunts, jerking his head back towards the village he grabs the boy by the arm, the kid blanches and flinches, that arm was soar, aching from the bite it was healing from. Blood leaks from my lips as I bite into my palm, I’m literally shaking, eyes shut tight, trying to hold back the fire.
I could kill them all in seconds.
I should have let the boy go home.
I could have prevented this.
I could have prevented all of this.
I thought the men had come back again a day later.
I was ready to strike. Claws out, ready to pounce- a mass of black fangs, red eyes, and violence.
I’m almost about to do just that, when I smell the boy through the thick haze of an obscuring scent- the scent of a man, but there is only one pair of feet treading my way.
He’s distant. A near vacant look clouding his eyes as if he’s locked in some far-away place. His sackcloth clothes are rumpled- more than what is usual. I notice the bruising. Around his neck, across his face, over his arms. His eyes are red and raw, his face vacant and his gait unsteady. I approach, he doesn’t seem to even see me. I get close enough to lay a hand over his shoulder, and he flinches, shuddering away at my touch. He’s cold, but hot, sweating but shivering. I kneel down, and I pull him in, he struggles for a bit than he falls still, a soft keening sound emanating from him.
I can smell it now. Clearly. The scent of a man, that I smelled before on him but now, there is a taste, sickly sweet and salty to my nostrils. The bruises, the shaking..
I am a Hellhound.
Rage is a byword for my kind.
I pull the boy closer to me, kneeling down I hold his head against my breasts, burying him there, I can feel soft wetness and warmth as he begins to cry. He wraps his arms around me, trying to pull himself closer as he crumples into my embrace as I kiss the top of his head, he was safe now. I’m holding him, and he is holding me- holding me back from an unending rage that would see me reduce the village yonder into nothing more than a mass grave buried beneath a pile of embers. The things I would do- a merciless slaughter…
Beasts, the lay creatures of the world, I can understand them. In a way, I can ever forgive them, of simply even just allow them to do as they wish. They are creatures, savages, they don’t understand the things they do, they simply act on instinct. They fight, they feed, they fuck, they kill. They live moment to moment off the whims of their desires and needs. When they raid a human town, they do it to find a mate, a human male, the age doesn’t matter.
If the women get in the way, then they become food. If another creature takes interest in their stolen ‘mate’ then the two will fight for control. The man is just a piece of meat. But humans. I don’t understand humans- why would they do these things. Why would they at all be like this- to another of their own kind no less to a a child. It fills me with disgust, it boils inside of me until I am near shaking.
I keep my arms around the boy just to keep myself from going off and making an example of that village for letting something like this happen. I want to roar, to scream, howl. Anything to announce my anger. Instead, I kiss his forehead, and dry his tears before I carry him to the stream. There I wash him clean with tender paws.
I finish cleaning him, and I didn’t notice it before, but I do now. Cuts, bruises, and old minor scars , all across his back and front. He’s been beaten, and regularly. Some of the cuts arn’t even fully healed, but thankfully, none seem to be infected That’s a small blessing I can count upon. I dress him, he’s slightly more lively now, leaning back against me, resting his head against my breasts. I ruffle his hair, and look at the placidly flowing river.
I’m wondering what my options could be. I don’t want to let him go back. That horrible place, wherever he lives, it doesn’t treat him right- but I could. I can take care of him, I know it. I can do it- all I have to do is try, and-
I stop that thought before it can trail off into a mad plan doomed to failure. He won’t go with me. He has something tying him back to wherever he lives.
Something that is worth going back into hell for. I don’t know what. I wont ever know what, most likely. But I can’t expect him to leave it for me. I shut my Eyes, I enjoy the warmth of him on my lap. For however long it lasts.
I want it to last longer.
I shouldn’t have let him leave.
Smoke wakes me.
The smell of smoke the sound of thunder the sting of ash and crackle of cinder. I’m running, sprinting, lunging forwards on all fours through the orchards, there is a prayer on my lips, a prayer to whatever god or gods- whatever beings that will hear me- a prayer that I’m not too late, a prayer that the stone in my gut is just my imagination.
I crash through the underbrush, I tear up the landscape and then I see him at the edge of the forest, just meters away before safety. A figure standing over him, brutish and hulking, wrapped in thick animal hide and twirling an iron hatchet, it raises it up to strike the boy down. I shriek, leaping the last few yards, fire ripping from my eyes as the roar bellows from my throat, like black lightning I impact into the Orc.
The greenskinned savage doesn’t even understand what is happening to him when I rip his head from his body, and hurl it into the nearest fire. I couldn’t give a shit about the village now as I whirl around, scrambling over the ground to the Boy and-
-and when I see what has been done to him, I…
Why didn’t I make him stay?
Why did I let him go?
Why am I such a pathetic bitch-dog?
He’s- He’s in so much pain, he’s staring up at me, begging me, pleading.
I don’t know what to do What can I do? I’m shouting, I’m screaming- I’m an idiot! I’m a fucking retard bitch-dog! I shouldn’t have let him go, shouldn’t have let him leave. I should have kept him with me, made him my awkward little human child and raise him myself. I didn’t and now look at him.
He knows that he’s already dead. There is so much blood- how can such a small, frail body hold so much red? It just keeps pouring out of that stump, and running down the ruined side of his face. It’s just meat and bone there, torn away, I can see inside of his face, I can see- He’s shaking. I’m trying to hold him still but he won’t stop shaking, he’s so cold. I want to warm him up, I’m trying to hold him close to me like it would make any difference at all.
I’m so afraid.
Part of me just wants him to die so that I don’t have to listen to those horrible croaking sounds he’s making, it’s agony- listening him in this pain, and I hate myself. There’s nothing I can do- What the hell can I do? What do I do, what do I do?
He’s grabbing me, his remaining arm, tiny fist closed tight around my paw, holding on like I’m the last light in his reality. I’m no light, I’m a monster. I take his ruined tiny body, I pick him up. I do the only thing that makes sense and I hold him close. What else is there for me to do? What else can I do? There is nothing Else I Can Do.
That was how he died.
I couldn’t fix him.
I can’t fix anything.
I’m a Hellhound.
I can only break things.
Did he think that I could save him? Did he think that I had some sort of magic? Or, more likely, he just wanted to not be alone. A familiar face. Something warm to hold him as he went. Somebody that cared. I could have saved him. If I just held onto him for one night more. Just held him tight and told him shush when he wanted to leave. Maybe if I was more careful, maybe if I nested closer to the town.
My chest hurts.
There is so much pain.
But now there is Fire.
It’s been awhile,
Since I’ve felt this,
I have to do something with this,
This anger, this need for violence…
Something has to die.
It doesn’t matter what.
I just need to spill some red and rip some guts.
Break bones and rend flesh, coat myself in gore.