Hound. Ch1


I am a Hellhound.

I am a monster with a heart made of fire and eyes of crimson. I have claws of dark obsidian, and a body coiling with strength. My kind were forged by the Abyss. We live to kill and bring misery upon the waking world.

The waking races tell dark tales of my kind. They sit around fleeting fires to whisper in hushed voices of the carnage we bring. They speak of our immortal bodies and burning eyes that stare with the combined malice of all the manifest violence of the primordial pit. Stories of corpse-strewn fields and blood-stained castles, desecrated by the baleful talons of my kindred.

We are said to mindlessly go about killing until one day finally put down by a great hero or greater beast. They say we are heartless beasts. We are dubbed as uncaring and unmerciful, filled with hateful power by the space-in-between.

I deeply wish that such conjecture was true.

I wish I had not the capacity to feel. I wish I had no heart. No reason to think. No way to remember what has befallen me.

My home. My pack. My mate.

Gone. All of it is gone.

Within me there burns a searing pain within my breast that aches like the cold stab of a blade long after it has been removed. An emptiness where there was once something whole, something vital. All that is left now is a curse called memory- painful, sinful memory. Images, scents, sounds, and feelings. Haunting me. Mocking me, right before, and within me, but so irreparably gone.

I would never see my home again. The white snowy peaks, the dark pine-wood forests, the ruins of ancient kingdoms long fallen. His face, his smile, his eyes.

I would never hear the low moan of water in the deep-caves, the calls of the wild-men who hunted the woods, the howling cries of my sisters.
His voice, his footfalls, his laughter.

I would never feel the rush of elation that came with breaking an upstart sister who thought to challenge my position of Alpha. I would never feel that savage hunger that was born of a hunt on a moonlit night. Nor would I ever feel the biting cold of frozen blood against my fangs and claws.
Never again his warmth, never again his passion, never again his compassion. His scent…

Pain and anger and loss, all mixed into a miasma that breathed with my lungs the deep salted scent of the air. My body is not my own. A slave to a deeper need to survive at all costs despite my dearest wish not to. Death is the only salvation left to me.

So I have come here. Atop a cliff. I see it in the distance.

Stretching over the horizon. Endless blue and forest green. I can feel it on the breeze. Smell the salt-wind. It stings my wounds. My ruined body tingles, open cuts and gashes not yet closed. The faint pain reminds me that I am dying. That I must go before I waste away from hunger and thirst. The ocean beyond calls me.

Him. My mate. My one.

He said that one day we would see the Ocean.

He taught me words and made me promise him to see the ocean with him.

He talked of a wagon and horse, of how we would ride along a road with the great ocean to our west, and the mountains he would bring me from to our east. He would buy me a cloak to hide my features. We would visit towns, kingdoms, city-states. He would show me the world that lived beyond my mountains, beyond my pack of wild and vicious sisters. He would show me a life not devoted to fighting to survive day by day.

He wanted to show me a beautiful world.

It wasn’t to be. Wasn’t allowed to come to pass, not for a lack of willingness on my part, but because he had come into my world. My mountains, and in them, no such beauty was allowed to flourish.

I look down now.

Down past the cliff where I stand. A forest. Small, filled with conifers. A fast- flowing river fed by a waterfall cascading down over the cliff from the mountains behind me. This is the coastal land of ‘Grensfjord’. One of the westernmost realm of man and vassal state of Xion.

He told me that. He told me much of Xion. He said it was a direct descendant of an ancient human kingdom. He said that it’s royal line went back directly to what he called ‘The Hundred Kingdoms.

He told me much, but I understood only very little.

The humans of the west, I’ve heard stories of them. Next to guttering firelight, hunched over and oppressed by howling winds screaming through the mountains. I heard these tales, half bark and growl, that is the language of my kind. Sisters who had traveled down the mountain and returned would growl of knights in shining aquamarine blue and sea green armor, with weapons that fire thunder. Of a great water-bridge that flows up-stream from ocean to a great blue lake. Stories of their witch-queen and her elemental fury.

But He told me even more. He told me of verdant forests of endless summer, of beautiful blue water that escaped over the edge of the world and crystal skies. Orchards of honey-sweet apples, faeries that danced in the moonlight, of unlocked doors and windowsill conversations. He spoke of a hard-won land of farmers and children.

Beyond the deep orchard and forest. A village of Humans in stone and thatch houses. The smell of burnt wood, salted meat, and endless summer sun. The hamlet is mostly home to small one-story stone buildings intermixed with more exotic designs of log and mud. A wide dirt path travels north to south through the town. There are smaller paths branching off the main road, leading to smaller farms and granaries.

Docks line the waters edge, extensive wooden ramps lead up and down the shore. Barrels upon barrels and nets are stacked endlessly up and down the beach, brawny-men lash ropes to ships and unfurl blinding white canvas sails. Further out, slim sailing ships drag nets through the deep and blue depths. Just as He said it would be like.

I don’t feel anything from it.

I don’t feel awe. I don’t feel marvel. I don’t feel wonder or joy.

He isn’t here to see it with me.

He is dead.

Dead because of-

Her-

My blood.

My Blood. It coats my body. My blood. His blood. But not Hers.

Not Hers.

Even though I tried.

Wasn’t enough.

Useless.

How long has it been since?

How many nights? How far did I travel?

Doesn’t matter.

The Ocean. I’ll die there.

I smell the humans.

The men at the far docks are hauling nets filled with fish from a boat that has come to dock. Women and children come to collect the bounty in handcarts. The scent of burning wood. The smell of dried old fish. Harvest time.

They wouldn’t be able to put up a fight at all.

I could kill them all. Eat them and grow strong again. Heal my body.

What would be the point?

It’s early in the morning. The sun is just beginning its climb.

I descend. I make my way down the cliff. It’s easy for me. Claws hack into stone just as easy as meat or bone. I ignore the pain this causes me. Now I am below, underneath the treetops. A small pool is fed by a waterfall next to me, draining from the mountains above.

There’s a collection of small crystal-clear rivers that flow and twist, all of it fed 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.

The song of birds, and the hum of bees. From flower to flower- alighting off of pale white apple blossoms and deep purple 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.

He had told me of the old home of fairies and other fae creatures, long since abandoned when Man came to rule it. I believe it now. This place is timeless. Majestic.

I don’t belong here. All ragged and cut up. Heinous wounds still trying to heal, trickles of black blood from under broken scabs as thick as treebark. Even so, I am still Abyssal. I bring destruction wherever I go.

It’s alright. I wont stay long. I don’t intend to make a fuss.

I wade through tall grass that comes up to my hips. The ground beneath my paws is fertile and moist, Perfect for growing. 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. Pillaged it of innocence.

Even now I want to roar. I want to kill.

I don’t.

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 He said it would be and it hurts.

I can see children. Hear them, smell them. Racing up and down hard packed dirt roads. They’re wearing shoes made from deer leather and tunics from spun hemp.

They’re happy, these pups.

They’re playing a game with a ball made of barrel tar. One of them throws it as high as they can, and the others go running to catch it before it can hit the ground.

Hellhound pups play too. It doesn’t last long. Once the bleeding starts the playing stops, the fighting begins, and only ends when the breathing does. The weak are always culled early on. I remember the look of horror on his face when he saw it happen. I had thought it same for the other creatures. For humans. He explained to me otherwise. He had been upset.

That had hurt.

It still does.

I stay hidden in deep undergrowth and watch the human children play. It keeps me from my sorrow. One of the boys kicks the ball as it comes back down and it goes sailing. It flies 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.’

The boy hesitates. I wonder what he is feeling. A shiver traveling up his spine? An itch at the back of his neck? He looks in my general direction with clear unease written across his face.

Just go.’

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.

The other children call again. He backs away. An expression of concern written over his delicate features. They start up their game again, but this time they direct their throws away from the orchard until they disappear up the road behind several cabins.

I retreat further back into the deep summer-scented 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. I try to imagine how it looked before settlers came. Would there have been faeries flitting about? Dryads weaving garlands of grass and flowers for their beastfolk lovers? Would it have been just like in the stories He told me?

I don’t want to know.

I just want to sleep now. I want to go to sleep and never wake up again.

The sun tastes sweet, and the grass bows to me as a low wind carries the scent of the ocean so blue. This is a good place. I could end here. I could end it now. I have the ability to do so. I could finish what She had nearly done back in the mountains.

Her…

No. I wont think about Her. I wont let my last thoughts be about Her. Not here.

No, instead I will sleep. I will sleep here in the orchards He told me stories of. When the morning calls me, I will go to the ocean. I will run, I will jump, and I will fly far beneath the waves. I will swim deeply, and into the dark. I will find Him there, and be with Him again.

I do not dream this time, and that is good.

Daybreak.

The very next morning. I’m ripped from my sleep by something jabbing 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, my fire spewing eyes show me a boy. A human pup, dressed in a weather-stained brown tunic that is fraying at the seams. His hair is fair, his eyes are blue. 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 pokes me.

I’m at a loss for what to do.

He pokes me again.

I grab the stick and snap it in two. 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. 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. That’s it, he just stares, curious and mute, cocking his head and leaning side to side to get a better look at me. I stare back down. I’m taller sitting than he is standing.

I’m ready to rip the child apart. He’s far enough away from the village, and I’m more than quick enough to make it silent just in case. I raise one massive paw with its armament of obsidian black claws longer than a grown mans fingers. A single strike is all it would take. I could cut into his neck, through his spine, and out the other side. It wouldn’t cost me anything, I’ve done this plenty of times before.

I pause

My belly hurts, something in me lurches. I feel cold.

The Boy. He stares up at me. The fire around my eyes dies away, but I remain motionless, paw still raised, claws still spread wide.

This Boy- there should be a voice in the back of his mind, screaming at him to run, to flee back to his parents. He should not be here, not be standing here right in front of me, and not so much as flinching. It is enough to make me uneasy. Such is the irony, I am a Hellhound, and here I am, frightened by a scrawny human pup. That sparks a small ember of indignation within me. Try as I might, I cannot deny my nature any more than the next Hellhound can. I roll off my haunches and come up into a squat, I reach out and grab the boy by the front of his ragged tunic. The prelude to a growl building up in the back of my throat.

Why is he here? I raise the question to myself. Did he wander into the orchards and get lost? The grass is fairly high this deep in, and he looks short enough that he might have gotten turned around.

My grip tightens. My lips curl back over my yellow fangs. Whatever it is that is holding me back starts to be blotted out by familiar anger and indignation. I should just kill him-

I don’t have the chance to ponder any further. Without ceremony the human child reaches out and grabs at the mane of black and rouge fur that rests just above my breasts.

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.

All thought vacates my mind. The mountain I came from and why I came here, it all leaves me in a sudden mental gust of wind.

Oblivious to all of this, the boy just keeps squeezing and tugging my fur through his fingers. My fur is coarse and rough, his fingers sink deeply into it.

I don’t do anything. I cant do anything- I don’t know how there could be any living creature this… Stupid? Audacious? Clueless?

My reactions feel forced. My muscles stiffened to the point of pain. I’m all too aware of my strength. I could easily break every bone in his hand- break every bone in his body with just a fraction of effort. The boy is not aware of any of this, not cognizant of the fact that he’s fondling a Hellhounds chest-fur.

His hands start to catch at the knots, burs, and crusted bloodstains. With what was fast becoming typical audacity he tries to clear them out, pulling with childish strength. The soft pang of pulled fur is enough of a jolt to restart my mind. Enough to get me to growl.

Sahhhgt,” I try to speak. My voice sounds like rusting metal being dragged over monastery flagstones. Low, and casually menacing.

He taught me words, told me the secrets of their sounds and meaning. I’m not very good at them.

Shhhttab?” I try to say. I make the sounds, roll my tongue and move my lips in those practiced motions. “Ssstob?” I try again, slower, trying to pronounce the word just right. The Boy looks up at me. His eyes are marvelously blue. I wonder what he is seeing in them? What do I look like? I know what my sisters look like. Am I so different that he see’s something that I didn’t? “Staahp.” I say more firmly now, the shock is starting to wane, and the familiar emotion of indignant anger is starting to reassert itself.

Ssst’op.” I think that is correct. That’s the word. I raise my hands. I spread my claws and bare my fangs, the iron hard implements absorb the eternal summer light under the orchard treetops. “St’op.” I say again. Firmly, menacingly. His hands stop combing through my chest fur. I breathe easier.

Why is this boy here? Out of the corner of my eye I see something. I turn, and look. It’s a ball, black, made of tree-gum and barrel tar. That explains it. All I need to do is give him the ball and he’ll leave. He found me on accident. I turn away from the Boy, and that’s when me makes his move.

I freeze, solid as a stone. His hands are clamped around my tail.

The Boy is laughing now. It’s like I’m some newly discovered pet dog. His childish hands play through the coarse, rough fur of my tail. I can’t take much more of this humiliation. This is just some bratty pup from a human town, this boy can’t do this to me. He’s running his hands along my fur, cleaning my tail, pulling at the burs and nettles stuck there. It’s just like- In the mountains when He would-

This boy… He’s not…

He’s not Him. That man was the only one I allowed to…

I whip around and close my hand over his skull.

I pull him off. Push him back and grab the damned ball that was cause of all this nonsense. “St’op.” I growl, shoving the ball into the arms of the boy. I take hold of his shoulder and spin him around. He yelps, one of my claws caught him behind the ear. He’ll live. I push hard and he stumbles forwards. Another push, and he is swallowed up into the grass and bushes.

I hear his footfalls retreating. I hear voices in the distance. The sounds of children crashing through foliage. I am tense. Silent. Waiting. The voices disperse, and wander off into the distance. They’re gone.

He’s gone.

Why didn’t I kill him?

That is the first clear thought I have once I am sure the boy is gone.

I have killed plenty enough times before. The caravans me and my pack have ruined are countless. Children and pups of all ages were ripped apart by me and I have never once so much as blinked.

Why didn’t I kill that human child.

What held me back?

Something in the back of my mind-

My stomach hurts-

I spend the rest of the day waiting. Listening for the sounds of angry humans with their torches and spears. I wait long into the night.

They don’t come.

Another day.

He’s here.

That Boy.

I hear him in the foliage.

He’s trying to hide. Trying.

What is he playing at?

Does he think this is a game?

If he wants to play, I’d be more than happy to oblige. We could play the chasing game. If he wins. He gets to live.

If I win?

It should be obvious what happens if I win.

Especially after that day before. How he put his hands all over me, like I was some sort of dog.

Like I was something to be delighted at.

This boy is an idiot.

Trying my patience. What little of it I have. It is so tempting, so dreadfully appealing to simply erupt into violence, and gut the Boy with a single hooked claw from groin to throat. It would be nice to slake my blood-hunger.

-To lose myself again. The familiar rush of the hunt. Something to put all myself into and remember nothing else.

My thoughts, my mind, as it is now is nothing but a seething storm of disjointed memories.

I hear the ocean calling me in the distance. My promised end. I should be dancing in the dark below with Him. Yet here I remain in the Orchard. It is early morning. I have busied myself in doing nothing.

I am squatting on my haunches, stripping the bark from several sticks. It is easy for me to do. I watched Him do it before when he made fire. He showed me how after He saw me watching. His hands were soft but dexterous. He guided my paws with His. I made it clear that I didn’t need to use His knife. My claws were plenty sharp and strong. I could shred the wood easily. That made Him laugh, and that made me happy.

After I split the wood He showed me how to use special stones and make fire with them. He cupped his hands over the embers and blew life into flames. I thought it was magic the first time I saw it. The other sister did as well.

I had to maul two of the more superstitious sisters. They wanted to kill Him out of fear.

He taught me how to use the stones. I didn’t need them. My claws are like one of His tools, and could make sparks on their own. I didn’t understand what that meant, but it made me happy that I could do something He could do.

The sticks I gathered are almost stripped completely of bark right now. I am doing this not because I need or want fire. I don’t intend to make one. I do this because it reminds me of Him. I need the pain His memory brings me. Otherwise, I wont be able to do it.

I have to do it. I cannot live like this.

I spark the memories back up again.

I can feel the presence behind me in the trees. The eyes on my back. It is the Boy.

He’s hiding behind a tree. Well, more correctly, is that he thinks he is hiding. The boy scrapes against bark, rustles leaves and fumbles over twigs. Whenever I lazily look back over my shoulder, he ducks back behind the trunk- always a second too late.

Why did he come back.

Why didn’t I kill him.

Why don’t I just kill him now?

I toss away a stick. It’s done. I grab another and begin again.

My thoughts are simple. If I ignore him, then perhaps he will leave. Boredom will catch him and sweep him away. Then I can ruminate in peace. After that, the ocean.

I hear footsteps. I hope for a moment that they are sounds of departure. They are not.

My ear twitches, my eyes narrow, and I growl, trying to dissuade him from approaching but it’s useless. I glare over my shoulder. I curl my tail under me so he cant grab it. It is him, same look and everything. He doesn’t have a stick this time. He has a bag instead.

Why isn’t he afraid of me? He shouldn’t be approaching me, I am a Hellhound, does he not understand that? Do humans parents not tell their children about my kind?

He moves a step closer. I’m almost certain he’s going to try and grab my fur like last time. That thought is enough to provoke the instinctual anger inside me. I am resolved to kill him. This pup has had his fun at my expense. Not any more.

I turn and rise up on my haunches. My claws dig into dirt. I prepare to let them dig into flesh.

His bag. The smell of it hits me and I pause. Is that?

It’s a simple sackcloth bag with a drawstring. The Boy opens it and reaches inside. I’ve forgotten about the sticks, about killing this Boy- The Bag. The Bag. The Bag.

The Boy pulls out the juiciest slab of salted meat I have ever seen.

He holds it out to me.

I…

Well…

The fatty chunks stick to my teeth and the gristle snaps. It is raw, fresh, right off the animal and still bleeding with every bite. Tough and firm, I have to yank and pull to rip mouthfuls off. Bloody wet drool runs down my lips. Salty and sweet, the delicious taste of coppery blood, it is enough to make me forget it all.

I was hungry. So, so hungry. I hadn’t eaten in days. Drool fell from my lips.

So I eat.

Part of me is worried that something will happen. Someone will take interest in why the boy went into the deep orchards. That would make things more difficult than they already are. If that happens then my plans for a quiet, peaceful end are ruined. The other part of me, the undying hellhound I am, wants confrontation. A gory end. A typical end for one of my kind.

The Boy, he’s next to me. Watching me. He is content.

It’s like in the mountains-

In the caves we called home. Sitting by the fire with Him. The snapping, crackling flames. Just beyond, the sisters feuded. Endlessly quarreling over nothing- any excuse to start a fight and cement themselves a little bit higher in the pack.

He would be there. Next to me, with me. A light touch of His hand, a gentle caress on the thigh. Just enough to know that He was there. That was enough for me.

Just memories now. But they don’t hurt like before. They’re a little warmer now.

I didn’t realize that I’ve stopped eating. The Boy is looking up at me. I don’t know what expression I’m making, but he quickly looks away. I don’t know what to think.

But I feel warm.

Yet at the same time, it feels…

I feel…

How long has it been?

Is the ocean still there?

The call is fainter now…

I shake my head.

Without warning, the Boy is leaning against me. His head resting on my lap. This startles me, knocks me out of my reverie. This is typical of the Boy. Unfounded boldness. I look down at him, but his measure escapes me. I’m uncertain as to what his game is. Is he trying to domesticate me? Trying to make me a pet he can lead back to his home on a leash?

This is going too far. If this Boy is so insistent on trying my patience it will only serve to have himself slaughtered. I reach down and grab his head. He starts, and I pull him off my lap, a viciously snarled “Sstop,” rolling through the glade.

The Boy is looking at me. He looks…

Hurt?

He looks questioningly up at me. Those bright blue eyes. He doesn’t look as if he understands, doesn’t know why I pushed him away.

How can I make him understand?

He sits away from me, knees up to his chest, arms wrapped around his legs. He does not look at me.

And that Hurts.

The Boy leaves. I eye him, silently questioning, he doesn’t look at me. He says something, I do not know what.

Then he is gone.

And it Hurts.

It hurts.

Two days later and I’m in the river, knees deep, trying to claw a fish out of the water.

It isn’t going well.

A glittering streak of silver. I lunge, claws spread wide, dunking deep into the fast flowing rush with a mighty splash and closing-

-around nothing.

Snarled curses in a guttural barking voice.

Not even a shred of luck. Just further failure. My legs are getting numb. The water is crystal clear and ice-cold.

I’m hungry. I want to eat fish.

The boy hasn’t come back. It’s been two days.

It is for the best. I had lost track of myself. I had almost forgotten why I had come here in the first place. The Ocean deep is where He will be. I have to go to them-

Them…?

Them…
Ah-

Ah-!

My belly.

I’m holding my belly

Her claws-

Her claws-

Her claws-

I whip around, splashing water, a cascade of colors.

In the trees.

Her-

Her-?

No-

The Boy.

It’s the Boy.

He came back.

He came back…

The panic is a fading nightmare now.

Some strange dark whisper.

A memory?

No-

Something I must not remember.

An itch at the back of my mind.

A spider on the back of my head.

Need to forget.

I feel the sun. The sun is warm. It strokes my body. Makes the scars pain fade.

Makes the nightmare go away.

I now lounge along the bank of the river. A sunbeam pierces through the orchard treetops. My dark skin glistens wetly from faint mist. My scarlet-dark fur shines.

I am slowly warming as I lay on the grass. The birds are singing contentedly. I am content as well. My belly is full of porkrinds that the Boy brought.

I am uncertain as to why he came back. I am uncertain as to how I should feel that he has.

It does not matter.

I am lazy and full, the grass is soft beneath my body. The air is warm and smells of apples and honey. The sound of the flowing river makes melody with the whine of insects and chirping of birds. I can’t begin to imagine just what it would be like to live here. To posit the idea of an existence that isn’t one of constant violence.

Violence. That was the true aspect of the mountains. The bone chilling cold that swept down from the ice-peaks with bitter malice, its coming sounded like that of a cruel god. Hell-blizzards that ripped flesh with razor sharp shards of ice, and stripped a body clean of meat in a matter of minutes. The endless snow-drifts that dropped away into deathless fissures that had become the home of malignant spirits, waiting with cold, dead, ice-coated fingers to grab the unwary and drag them down to their death. Caves that stretched into the mountains, twisting into expansive underground caverns and deep darkness beyond even the preternatural sight of the Hellhound. This was home. Every day was a bitter cruelty. Every second was a struggle. There was a Pack of us. Hellhounds. Sisters all, in one way or another. We lived in the caves, and traveled down through mountain passes to hunt in forests.

Sometimes we were hunted in turn.

I don’t know what they were. We didn’t have a name for them. But they hunted us.

They were fast.

They almost looked Human. But they were too tall, and gaunt- rail thin. Their arms hung low past their knees. They were covered in white fur, and grew a crown of black thorn antlers.

They were impossibly savage creatures.

They could fight a Hellhound head on and win. They could fight Three of us head on, and win. They didn’t have claws- but their grip was as implacable as winter itself. They would rip us limb from limb, and bludgeon us with gnarled gaunt fists until we broke. That leering stag-skull face with coal-pit eyes.

Sometimes, they would climb the mountains, and hunt for our caves.

Sometimes they would find us.

To be awoken in the middle of night. Screaming roars echoing of the cavern walls as a sister is dragged out into the blizzard beyond. Whining howls of things that are dead inside, all thoughts gone- save for hunger.

There are no such creatures here among the apple trees.

Except for myself.

I roll onto my side. I am watching the Boy. He fascinates me.

More then that, he reminds me of-

Not of Him-

There is something else. Something that I-

A door in my mind, my hands grasp my belly.

Raised flesh over my belly, the remnants of deep scars.

I-

I shouldn’t remember.

I don’t want to think about it.

I must not think about it.

The Boy-

The Boy, the Boy, the Boy-

I look at the Boy.

The Boy is playing by the river. He has a length of string tied to a sharpened stick. He skewers bits of meat from his sack to the end of the stick, and then he tosses the line into the lazily drifting river. He lets the stick drift, bobbing just below the waters surface, and then he pulls the stick back in once it drifts too far downriver. Then, he casts the stick out again.

I don’t understand what he’s trying to do. I can only guess this is some sort of Human game that children play. Something to amuse themselves with while their parents work. It seems harmless enough. I roll back over, repressing a yawn that was building up in me. The sun is warm and the grass cool.

The air between a wonderful and mild mean. I had never thought before that weather like this could exist. I had only known of hellish chill and burning inferno’s- but the former only as a distant dream. Something forgotten. Something better left unremembered.

The boy shouts. I hear splashing. I perk my ears and roll over to look. The Boy pulls on his string, something stuck to the other end of it. Something moving. I sit up, crane my neck. He pulls one last time, and from the water comes a great shining fish with rainbow scales. He lands it, and with a rock he quickly stills it. I notice now the sharp piece of wood piercing through its upper lip. I cock my head in amazement.

I have always been impressed by Human ingenuity. I suppose it is for that reason why they have survived despite the odds.

The Boy turns and holds up his catch, beaming madly. I look away. Doing my best not to smile.

The Boy is good with his hands. Nimble, dexterous fingers, he quickly makes a small fire. I can’t help but look at my own hands. Massive, over-sized paws with each finger tipped with a lethal black claw. Never once can I recall having ever used them for anything other than bloodletting. Never once have I tried to create when instead I could destroy. I close my hands and open them. My claws click and scrape against one another. Black implements that have seen me through a life spent at the brink of survival. Could I create something? Could I ever… Build?

I look at the boy. He’s using a flat edged rock to scrape bark and knobs off of two sticks. His scrawny arms strain as he pushes against the wood. I reach over and grab one of the sticks from his surprised fingers. I easily run a claw over the wood. Peeling back bark and knobs with absolute ease.

Yeah.

This I can do.

How many days has it been now?

I can’t say for certain.

Time seems to have lost all meaning for me. I no longer keep track of when I close my eyes and when I open them again. I have lost track of many things, here in the glade.

It doesn’t hurt as much anymore. I don’t feel the pain as often. I find myself ruminating on the past less, and focusing on the future more.

For once, it is a future that does not involve the ocean blue, and the black beneath.

Or, at least, maybe not as soon as I had planned originally.

It would be a shame to leave so soon, after all, I just learned how to fish properly.

My ears perk, the familiar sound of young feet traipsing through the underbrush long since learned and well remembered.

It’s the Boy, of course. He is as cheerful as ever.

He’s the same as ever; cheerful and boisterous, carrying with him his usual sack of delicious treats. Today will be different, because, this time, I have some for him as well.

I had watched The Boy closely, watched him throw the small wooden hook into the river while it was attached to string. The fish would bite it, and he would pull them in. I tried it for myself now, and, he see’s the three freshly caught fish I have on the bank. I even have a fire as well.

I might be old, but I can still learn well enough. .

It is with some pride that I see him clap his hands in excitement at seeing my bounty.

I may or may not have wagged my tail.

Time passes.

Smoking apple-wood and cooking trout adds to the scent of an eternal summer evening.

I study the Boy. He sits across from me. Eating his share. I take my time with scarlet eyes lain upon him. What makes him different from any sane child I have seen before.

Why does this one- why has this one, not run from me. Something I have not seen?

He seems normal. Spry and youthful. Without observable faults or defects. He has some bruising along his arms and legs, splotches of blue and purple. I crane my neck, trying to get a better look. Old scarring on his hands and fingers, small rises of puckered pink flesh where something sharp cut deeply. I sniff the air again. It doesn’t turn up anything else. I huff. No closer to finding out the enigma of this human child.

I tear off a hunk of trout. I look past the boy, and into the morning sky.

Best not to think of these things. Best not to know too deeply.

A flight of songbirds pass by overhead.

The Boy leaves earlier today, before the sun is too far above eastern mountains.

I don’t think he wants to leave.

What day is it? .

I keep losing track of time.

This orchard paradise, this hidden grove among the wilderness of golden fruit and summer sun, it robs my senses of their edge. My mind is clouded by the warm days and cool nights. It is not safe for me to be here. I am losing myself. Losing sight of what I have come to do.

It would be best for all involved if I left now.

Or, maybe…

Maybe just a bit longer. A few more days at the most. A few more days.

My ears perk. The familiar sound now something I have come to expect- to almost enjoy. The sound of young feet pushing through tall grass and undergrowth.

It is the Boy. As always. And as always, he came with gifts. He has a bloody sack with him, pooling blood leaking from the bottom.

The boy enters my clearing. I take a moment to ponder him. I try to understand what he is, just what he is supposed to be. Every time I see him, I am distrustful of myself. I find in myself something lacking, some instinct that I should be abiding yet find absent.

I’ve said I have been honest in my observation of my nature. I am a Hellhound, and nothing more. That which is weaker than me is prey, that which is stronger, is an enemy. There is no middle-ground. There is no questioning. This is my nature that I must obey.

So what is it about the Boy before me. What is holding me back from my nature.

I remember his actions on our first meeting. I remember the salted meats he brought me. I remember his abnormal fearlessness.

That isn’t enough. It might be enough to give me pause for a moment, but that is all.

It wasn’t fearlessness. It was something else. Something that had been done to me-

A feeling-

Something just beneath my belly hurts-

No.

Don’t think about it.

The Boy. I look at the Boy. He is alive, living, young and spry, a spirit inhabiting a body of flesh and meat and bone and sinew. He is alive, having met me, teased me, poked me and pestered me. He should not be alive. I should be killing him now. I should, and yet-

and yet-

I know the taste of human meat.

I know the taste of human pups just as well.

Sweet red rib-meat, peeled right off the bone

Their heart small and delicate. Barely a mouthful.

Soft white bones, not fully formed. Broken open, the marrow sucked out.

The Liver I save for last. Raw. Red. Bloody.

Cutting. Slashing. Hacking-

Injured- I am still injured. Grievous wounds. Things still broken- inside me, broken, broken and cut open-

My breathing catches. I focus.

I am wounded. Maybe that may have left me in a compromised state of mind. They must have made me unwilling to attack everything.

No.

That logic does not hold up to inspection. No matter how many wounds. No matter how savage our injury, we will keep fighting, keep trying to kill. Even a pierced heart or split brain is not entirely sure to kill a hellhound completely.

So if it was not my injuries…

No.

There’s something to that- Something I can’t-

I am cold.

I look down.

I notice how my paws cross over my belly. .

Claws.

Red mist.

Agony.

Tearing.

My head hurts, my heart beats faster. I close my eyes I open them again.

Eyes on the boy.

The Boy.

No

Not a Boy.

Her.

The bag.

Dripping red.

His-

His-

-A single paw around his neck. Popping, ripping, now spurting red. Her claws in his hair. Letting his head hang. The body drops. Red. Dripping red. His crushed stump of neck. My promises, my future. Dead, dripping in the red. Frozen in the snow-

The screaming of the Boy brings me back.

A shrill keening wail. Panicked horror.

I am atop the boy. I hold the Boy by the throat. Claws gouging into timid pink flesh. The bag I hold to my chest. The fresh head of a butchered pig within.

I throw myself backwards. I drop the pigs head, let go of the boy.

He scrambles to his feet. His neck already bruising. Blood leaking from where my claws pressed tightly. Fear, hurt, confusion. They pass across his face. They scream silently at me.

Tears now, he’s backing away.

He’s running now.

Into the tall grass.

He’s gone.

The glade is silent. Not a bird. Not an insect. The pigs head bleeds.

What have I done.

The sun is at its apex, when I hear the footfalls of men approaching.

But by then, I am already gone.

Night comes.

The deep forest. Harsh and cold.

Damp wood and writhing undergrowth. Vines creep and strangle. Searching for sunlight. The day is dim, the night is darker. The sky is a blanket of branches, leaves, and needles. The air is rich with the smell of moldering decay. Beetles crawl and worms wriggle.

It is a dark place. A quiet place.

I sit in a copse of evergreens, my legs curled up against my chest, my back against a trunk. My body does not feel my own.

Numb, in shock. Eyes half lidded, a daze on my mind.

A memory, the past reanimated and put before me: His head held before me, a trophy and offering.

The lurching pain in my breast- I thought forgotten.

This is why I must end it. This pain. It is unbearable- unreal. An aching numbness. A desolation within my being that wont be closed. It grips at me, pulls at my mind. Dragging back memories of Him, of before that hellish day. That horrible moment. Every smile, every word, every absentminded touch he made is in that desolation. They all lead to the same place- the same reality. His head in her claws- his body in the snow. Blood red ice at her feet.

I brush my cheeks. They are wet, but there is no rain. I don’t understand.

The Boy.

He had ran at last. Ran when my mind lapsed, when memories overwhelmed me and I was once again in he mountains.

I had thought the Boy to be Her.

For an instant. An instant was all.

I had nearly killed him.

Perhaps it would have been better if I had.

He had ran. Not fear, but betrayal on his face. He had gotten the men of the village. Led them to the glade.

I had ran.

I could have stayed.

Could have chopped them all into meat.

Could have. Didn’t.

It’s my fault. I hadn’t meant to stay that long. Should not have stayed so long.

I was supposed to go into the ocean. Into the deep dark-blue below. My mate would be there. Him, and…

My hands cover my belly.

My cheeks are wet again.

Another deeper agony in my chest.

More memories come.

Flesh tearing. Something bursting. A child’s wailing

I don’t want to remember. Pain unbelievable.

I try to sleep, afraid to dream.

No dreams.

Smoke wakes me.

The smell of smoke. The sting of ash and crackle of cinder.

I rise. Uncoiling from within myself. Through the trees. In the distance. Smoke drifts through branches.

Light.

Faint glimmering reds and oranges. Sparks of yellow against dusk brown bark. I think it only a bonfire. The village, a celebration. Some novelty tradition.

More scents now. Carried on the smoke.

The iron scent of human blood, the frantic taste of fear. A heavy musk occluding it all. I know the scent very well.

Greenskin. Orcs.

They are raiding the village.

It doesn’t concern me.

An obstruction removed. By tomorrow’s light, every single man of fighting age will be either dead or captured. Every woman made a breeding slave. The elders will be butchered, and the young-

My mind hiccups.

-the young will be…

I shouldn’t care.

My cheeks are wet again.

I’m running, sprinting, lunging forwards on all fours towards the orchards. I dig my claws into tree-trunks to pull myself forwards ever faster. I hurl myself through the darkness of the forest, and out into the night.

Acrid smoke, thick and black. The orchard burns. Flames scour across the canopy. Leaves the color of warm-sunlight are charred black and curl into ash. I dive into the flames. They do not harm me.

Faster.

I crash through the underbrush. I leap over burning logs and around infernos. This place was once of the Fae. I can almost hear the spirits of the glade screaming in agony as the fire envelopes it.

I leap over the brook where I watched the Boy fish. I fly past the tree where he first found me.

I see the edge of the forest. I see the brambles that I used to hide from the children as I watched them play their game with a ball of tar and gum.

The village is a vision of hell. A firestorm ripping up into the sky. Pillars of smoke trail up into the vanishing distance. Figures dance in the firelight, tall, and broad or shoulder. Screaming, roaring, crying. I hear it all. I gallop faster still. The beat of a war-drum is in my chest. Every strike another small agony against my mind. My thoughts are of Him. The Boy. Him. The Boy. Him. The Boy. Him And The Boy And My-

I see the Boy. A flickering shadow, a black outline against the all-consuming red and yellow oblivion. Legs pumping, tiny, frail body- all gangling and awkward. Running for the edge of the forest as if it would provide safety, as if the flames in there were any different from the ones behind.

Behind the Boy-

A figure emerges. Brutish and hulking, wrapped in thick animal hide and twirling an iron hatchet. A massive arm, coated in muscle raises up and swings forward, releasing at the last second.

I see i- the hatchet. A crude thing. A wooden handle with a wedge of sharpened iron tied to it. A tally of bird-skulls hang from it along a narrow length of leather cord. It spins, end over end, twirling through the air. It embeds itself in the back of the Boy. A solid, loud, deafening ‘Thuch‘. The sound of metal parting meat, and striking through bone.

My muscles erupt. My eyes explode into fire. I shriek. My legs propelling me through the air, the last twenty meters spent airborne. With fire ripping from my eyes as the roar bellows from my throat, like a scar of burning black lightning, I smash into the Orc, a whirlwind of fangs, claws, and fire.

The greenskinned savage doesn’t even understand what is happening to him when I rip his mutilated head from his ruined body, and hurl it into the nearest fire-

-and then I spin around, and am next to the Boy-

He’s lying there. Face down. In the dirt. He isn’t moving.

Blood leaks from around the hatchet. I turn him over, to look at his face. To see his chest rising and falling- not yet gone.

His chest is still. His face is slack- eyes staring blankly.

His guts spill out of his belly like a nest of red worms.

Dead.

Something in me breaks again. Breaks like it did before- when She…

The feelings I’ve been trying to keep back. The sharks below the surface of my mind. They come to surface now.

And the pain in my chest explodes.

And I remember.

I remember-

Remember-

Her-

My guts all over the snowy ground, torn up and open, big black claws inside me, pulling out-

She-

Taken- Ripped- Torn out- ruined,

Chest hurts.

Claws, big black claws, her claws-

So much pain.

Tearing, my belly, in my belly, popping like a blister- spilling, out, out, out- onto the snow, my baby-

Fire.

-my baby- red, mewling, delicate, fragile, mine, in her claws-

My Fire.

-took my baby- took my mate-

This feeling,

tore him apart-

This rage.

-split me open, spilled me out-

Hate.

cut her out, ripped her apart

Have to kill.

-she ate my baby-

Need to kill.

-left me for dead-

Black everything out.

Breaking bones ripping flesh crushing skulls squashing corpses skewering lungs smashing spines tearing muscles-

That sound-

Roaring,

So close,

So familiar,

Ah-

That roaring,

It’s me.

Kill-
Kill
Kill

I had made my home in the high caves with a group of other hellhounds.

We raided nearby beastkin tribes until they fled elsewhere. Then we moved onto caravans that tried to take the long winding cliff-side paths through the mountains.

During one of our raids I met ‘Him’. A Human, a man who was older in his years.

I took a liking to him. Something about him was peaceful. Calming.

Most mates that my sisters took didn’t last long. Neglect or the cold, or often times the hunger of their captors took them before long. I took care of Him, and as the Alpha of the pack I was free to take food from the others whenever I wanted.

I raped him, of course, why else would I have gotten a male? Soon, enough however, I stopped. I began to hate the idea of having to hurt him or force him.

Love.

I didn’t know the word, didn’t know what it could be.

He taught me about Love.

He gave me a Baby. I remember when it happened. I let him onto me. Into me. Filling me. Loving me.

He taught me words. Human speech. It felt funny, using my voice for something other then snarling and howls.

He loved me even more when he knew I could understand him. He said sweet things into my ears that made me feel tingly and warm. He would tease me and hold my belly as it began to grow.

He told me stories of the Human world. He told me of Gods both great and small, he told me of cities and kingdoms, he told me of lands and countries. He told me about the ocean. He told me how he wanted to show me it one day.

And I promised that I would go with him to the ocean.

Then She came.

A black beast of nightmare. A creature wearing our skin.

I was gravid. I couldn’t fight such a monster. four of my pack were already broken in half by a single crushing hand of that creature. Of Her.

He tried to protect me. He held up a sharpened stick and stood I front of me.

She killed him. Crushed his neck and threw his head into the snow.

Then she came for me.

She cut my belly open with her big black claws. Tore my baby out of me.

Ate her.

And then left me for dead.

The agony of it.

Pain beyond the capabilities of physical description. Something unbearable. The Death of all that was once good and pure. The unquestioned eradication of what it meant to be happy. A rape of morality. Her Claws. Her crimson stained cutlasses of obsidian black. I still feel them. I feel their cursed touch. I feel them rip into my belly, and rake open my womb. They cut. They tear. They take from me all that I have ever wanted in an instant of impossible cruelty. My little one dies there. Inside of me I feel her life– a life not even begun, ripped away from me by her. I still feel it. That empty shell that wont leave. A deep impossible hole in the pit of my being that I can never fill.

I am broken. I can never work right ever again. She took from me the only promise of Joy that I could ever hope to have. She took the one hope every hellhound holds- the hope of a daughter.

I blacked it out.

Blacked out the reality of what happened to me.

Wanted to forget.

Wanted to die.

Wanted to make it like it never happened and go quietly into the sea.

Nothing left to live for.

Then that Boy.

A child. A pup, some strange human child that wasn’t afraid of me and gave me food.

I thought I could relax. Thought I could let myself be unguarded for an instant.

Then came the reality I couldn’t forget. I scared him away, and when the Orcs came I was too far to help.

I would have saved him. I know I would have. I wold have run in, and scooped him up in my arms. I would have killed anything that tried to stop me.

I would have done that, just because he had been nice to me, if only because he thought I was an oddity.

I am awake now. The dream is over. The fantasy that I had constructed in which I could have ever been happy again is over.

I sit at the center of the carnage. Blood drips from my claws. Chunks of flesh stuck between my teeth. I reach up and pull the axe from my neck, it lurches violently, my black blood sucking as the metal head finally pulls free and I discard it. I do the same for the spear stuck through my leg and the sword in my guts. Weapons of iron and wood, these aren’t enough to kill me. Not when the rage takes hold.

I let my thoughts linger on the bodies. Orcs, goblins, and an Ogre. There must’ve been fifty or so. I butchered them all. Their remains line the streets. Some are missing arms, others chunks of skull, most have a hole in their chest where their heart would have been.

The village still burns. Cabins and cottages collapse in on themselves. Roofs breaking in and sending sparks skywards like restless fireflies. Save for the crackle and snap of embers, the shifting of burning timbers, there is quiet. I watch the sparks rise into the nighttime sky. This village was once peaceful.

I look back at the burning forest, I think about the clearing, and the river. I look at the tiny corpse lying just before the Orchard. Would he had lived, if he had not met me? Did I somehow cause this?

Hellhounds are said to be beasts of ill-omen.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s over now.

I just want to sleep with my beloved and my little one. The life that could not be.

I look to the ocean.

I can hear them calling me.

Him, and our little-one.

I limp to the waters edge.

And I go join them in the dark.

Just like I promised them I would.

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4 thoughts on “Hound. Ch1

      1. That explains it. Regardless, this is masterful. I’m curious where it can and will go, since it’s labeled “chapter 1.” Also, did any of the other humans from the village survive? I’m merely curious.

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