Flames reached for the sky, consuming the longhouse and the dead wulfen. Karl watched mutely, shoulders stiff, fists clenched. Guilt still filled him, leaving little room for anything else.
Time passed. The sun set, and the fire continued to rage. It consumed only the buildings, ancient magic protecting the forest. Long after the fire died, and the clan hold was completely gone, the magic would remain, defining borders between trees and home.
No longer home. Karl looked bitterly away, ending his vigil.
he turned his back on the clan hold, putting away every happy memory. He had a heavy task before he could be happy again.
The human bodies were piled outside the clan hold, weapons beside them. Karly didn't fear discovery; the wulfen were good at hiding, at being away from human civilization. It was no accident these slayers were here. And no one was going to stumble upon their remains.
Using the light of the blaze, Karl began searching the remains for anything to identify the killers. No wallets, no IDs, not even car keys. Frustration welled, and Karl growled. Rising, he kicked a head into the falling night.
Times were troubled, but not so much that humans would invade the Shadow Lands to hunt wulfen. Even trolls had left humans alone in this decline of technology. And if mankind was up in arms, why come so deep into the woods after the Blood Hills clan?
Karl would have to get his answers the old fashioned way; track them back to their homes and investigate.
Taking a deep breath, undressing, he settled himself for the change. For eighteen years he'd been able to harness the beast in his soul, and for eighteen years the shift had hurt. Time had given him the ability to ignore it, but had never lessened the strain on his body.
Bone lengthened, torqued, shortened. Joints creaked and popped. Ligaments strained to their limits, tendons and veins standing out against fever-hot skin. His skull throbbed as it shifted, teeth withdrawing into his jaw.
The pain grew worse, white hot across his nerves. he began to growl, collapsing, thoughts dispersed. Intolerably. Like always, Karl survived. Sometimes he didn't want to.
When the change ended, so did the pain. Nothing lingered, leaving no hint of the agony he'd undergone. Karl rose on four long legs, a lean silver wolf. He shook himself, settling into his furry self, then set to his task.
The clan hold was intensely different to wolf senses. The world lit up with scents and sounds, feeding his brain vast amounts of information. As wulfen, he was able to process all the sensory data of the animal and understand it as the man.
Death and fire made him edgy. Karl's hackles rose, but he quelled the instinct to run. He nosed the dead humans, getting their scents, then began circling the hold.
The woods smelled richly of the clan, and he whimpered as he made his search. Ignoring traces of his friends and family, he sought only the sour tang of human and weapon. A single pass around the clearing told him much, none of it pretty.
The humans had come from downwind, skulking along a dry stream. This deep into the Shadow Lands, the Blood Hills had no need for guards. Would that they'd remained vigilant, as in the old times.
Nose to the ground, Karl followed the trail miles down the bed. The slayers had been determined to make a trek like this.
After an house of travel, he found their vehicles. And one man left on guard.
Karl growled, and began to charge.