The Lupine Saga 121

“What’s following us?”

“That wolf. I heard it when it was my turn last night. Late at night when you all slept he was howling. But it was more distant.”

“Now that you mention it, I think I heard him too. Well, maybe. Wolves aren’t unusual around here. Bunch of prey to hunt down, ha.”

“Ha, true. But just probably near some territory of theirs.”

“Just one howl though, not a pack.”

“You’re paranoid. You think he’s hunting us? You’re drinking too much.”

“He might have a point. I mean, I may have heard something a while back. I didn’t think anything of it thing. But now, he’s sounding pretty close too. Closer, right?”

“Yeah, a lot closer. How far off can you usually hear them howl?”

“Many kilometers. They can have pretty large territories. He’s probably a lot farther off than you think. Or she, whatever.”

“Wolves. I hate wolves. Training for them still doesn’t feel like enough.”

“Hey, don’t talk about that.”

“Oh whatever. It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does.”

“Fine fine. I know, don’t talk about stuff that matters. Freaking wolf. I’m not going to sleep well.”

“Ha, dream of him biting your rear. You know that’s how they kill, bite you in a sensitive, fleshy area, and wait for you to bleed out?”

“Shut up.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Pretty vicious, right? Well, effective. A wolf doesn’t care about its prey’s feelings or ability to reproduce should it escape, right? Bite right where it hurts. Ha.”

“You’re getting pretty gross there.”

“Well, they are interesting. At least the animals are. Now, a lupus on the other hand, those are really vicious.”

“Yeah they are.”

“I don’t want to hear.”

“You ever read about the lupus of Gren, the black-furred one?”

“The myth crazy uncles tell to scare kids?”

“My great-great grandfather told my grandfather, who told me, it really happened, he was there when the army back then tried heading into those northern areas. History may say it was weather that forced them back, but grandfather believed him.”

“He actually see it, or was he just trying to scare a kid and pass on a myth?”

“His records say he was really there. It’s the only story of his, apparently, where he admitted freely he was a coward. Every other story he’s heroic in.”

“So what happened?”

“So the lupus of Gren, back then they called it Nightmare. There were other names, but my ancestor would only refer to it as Nightmare.”

“Oh, how scary. So typical. Whatever. Guess I could use a story with my drink. You’re giving him a good scare here anyways.”

“Heh. Well, Nightmare apparently was already at the border waiting for the army to cross. There wasn’t really a clear border, so the army passed into the territory one day without even really knowing it. They camped for the night. When they awoke that morning, there was a body lying at the entrance to one of the large tents. The commanding officer looked at the body, and then entered the tent. Everyone inside was dead.”

“A large tent? Sure it wasn’t just a small army one?”

“He said a large one. An entire tent’s worth of men, gone, in one night, with no one noticing. It was a gruesome sight, apparently. Well, nobody could explain what happened, and the army kept moving that day. And then it happened a second night, even though there were more guards awake that night. Another tent, gone. Most of the men inside were still in sleeping positions, and a few were on the ground, their hands on their necks. All with the same gruesome markings as before.”

“That’s getting pretty amazing, but gross.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the most surprising thing. So the third night, no one slept. It was already being called Nightmare by this point, as it seemed to take men in their sleep. So my ancestor was just as frightened as the rest.”

“They all stayed up? Did Nightmare come?”

“Yes, Nightmare came. Everyone was up and ready for the Nightmare. And it lived up to the name. It came when everyone was awake, without regard for them. My ancestor said he at first acted courageous, drawing his sword and chasing after Nightmare as it tore through rows of soldiers alone, a trail of bodies in its wake. But Nightmare was fast, and didn’t attack head-on. Nightmare moved in inhuman ways, dodged spears and swords and arrows, and tore apart armor like paper. To be honest, the army’s training and equipment back then was not nearly as good as now. Today Nightmare would have a tough time. But Nightmare would still be frightening, somewhat.”

“So what happened? Did they get him?”

“I’m getting there. But first, my ancestor said that at one point it looked like Nightmare was getting close to where he was. At this point he had stopped chasing. It’s true that when you consider the total number of soldiers killed, it wasn’t really that significant a number. But it was still just one lupus, and that was enough. So, when Nightmare got closer, my ancestor took the coward’s way out. He hid beneath a few bodies near him, hoping Nightmare wouldn’t notice a living body beneath them.”

“Indeed, that’s cowardly.”

“But I can understand it, after hearing how he had trembled when telling this story to my grandfather. Anyways, Nightmare at this point was escaping from the chasing horde, and had stopped for a brief second in front of my ancestor, when the largest surprise happened.”

“Don’t tell me he attacked in surprise and managed to bring down the great Nightmare? Oh how silly.”

“Oh, he wished it was that good. No, it’s when he saw Nightmare up close. Through all the blood covering Nightmare, he noticed something that made him shiver uncontrollably, to the point where he thought Nightmare would come back and finish him off later. It was that Nightmare was a female lupus. He couldn’t stop shaking at the thought, that a woman, no, a female lupus, was the Nightmare that had destroyed the morale of an entire army. And he couldn’t help but think about the consequences of her gender. If this is what a female could do, what about a male? What about an army of male lupus? He cried and wet himself while hiding under that pile of bodies, long after Nightmare had left. The army decided to turn back that night, considering the morale.”

“Seriously? I never heard that in any of the myths. A single female? That’s insanity. I’d be cursing if it wasn’t for the little lady with us.”

“Yeah. They’d pass on the legend in the books and understated it a bit compared to the real version, but to mention it was female would be too embarrassing. Well, that, and I think that Nightmare was so quick no one but my ancestor ever saw her long enough to tell.”

“Ugh, real or not, I think I might have trouble sleeping tonight as well.”

“Nightmare the lupus, interesting,” Ruby said, finally chipping in.

“You’re still up? Go to sleep little lady. It’s probably just a myth anyways. It’s not like we really have to worry. Lupus are northeast of here. Very far northeast, for most of them. We’re safe regardless.”

“So which army?” Ruby asked with a smile.

The men looked around silently, realizing their mistake. They had thought that as long as they didn’t mention things directly, it wouldn’t matter. But mentioning an army of humans in front of their prisoner made things hard to deny. So they internally cursed themselves, and then remained silent. Ruby, though, had a flash of inspiration. She took in a deep breath and stood tall.

“Not talon’d, but clawed!” Ruby yelled as loud as she could. At the end of her sentence two of the men had jumped at her, and held her mouth closed.

“What was that?” one of the men asked.

“Just a nightmare,” Ruby replied when her mouth was released. She laughed a bit. “Sleep well, humans.”

“Stupid girl. Let me hit her after all.”

The man’s comment was met with angry stares that told him not to say another word.

Two more days and nights passed, and then a third day passed. And finally, the third night arrived.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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