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 the perilous woods
ten
 Posted: Jul 1 2015, 06:22 PM
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ooc { hey folks. never roleplayed on the barberboards before… but I thought I’d try my hand at one of these, see how it goes. this is just a lil cheap Red Riding Hood-based plot with fairytale woods and nasty werewolves and the like. separated this intro into three chunks for navigability if you’re anything like me in how you read things. enjoy. }

ONCE UPON A TIME,

Yelps and snarls from across camp chilled his blood as he scrambled to hide behind one of the patchwork tents, grimy hands falling into the cold ash of a campfire from weeks ago. His heartbeat felt like a nail being driven through the front of his chest. Whenever another fight broke out like this, he couldn’t ignore the impulse to hide, even though it wasn’t him they were after. The lad had learned from experience, however, that it was worth it to steer clear when any meat – fresh rabbit, it smelled like, this time – was brought into camp, for the other werewolves had a tendency to lash out at anyone nearby as they battled for control of the carcass.

The scratches a superior had left across his face last time had yet to heal.

As long as he kept his distance, he wanted to believe, everything would be fine. As long as he didn’t look anyone in the eye, as long as he stayed out of reach, as long as he didn’t let his clawing hunger tempt him from his hiding place—

It seemed laughable to think that he had ever thought of the werewolves as a “pack,” like some natural, cohesive unit united in heart and mind by a shared sense of belonging. There was nothing natural about them. They could no longer live among the humans, but none of the turned ones knew how to live as ‘wolves,’ either. The physical transformation granted no useful instincts, no knack for cooperation, no hunting skills to speak of. He was surprised that one of them had managed to get hold of a rabbit at all, in fact – must have been a sick one. Food didn’t often come to camp often unless brought by the First, the one whom all the werewolves could trace the spread of their curse back to and whose presence bound them all to the woods. As for all the rest, the turned ones, they were nothing more than a filthy crowd of violent, inept children inhabiting second skins they had no understanding of how to use.

When he had lived in the village, he had imagined the wolves of the woods like a hive of bees—vicious when approached, but otherwise tranquil and working together amongst themselves.

Now he had the misfortune to understand otherwise. There was no peace to be had among the werewolves. The forced transformation on the night of the full moon was the least of his worries; the real curse of lycanthropy was that it came with a bottomless need: a stomach that never stayed full and an insatiable urge to consume.

Tethered to the First, the turned ones struggled to get their teeth around any prey and often turned on each other in their frustration. That was the one thing that united them in spirit.

We hunger. We hunger. We hunger.

Possessing a formidable wolf form of his own meant nothing in the face of dozens for whom the same was true, and the lad didn’t show his face until he heard the bloodcurdling noises of the battle fray turn to whimpers and whines. Shifting forward on the balls of his bare feet, he peered around the frayed edge of the tent. The First had emerged to break up the fight.

LITTLE DID HE KNOW,

At the end of that summer, almost a year after the First had taken begun residing in the woods and collecting progeny every month, a contagious illness started to spread throughout the village. There was a known cure in the form of a poultice made from wild woodland plant, and in past seasons, bouts of the sinking fever could be easily remedied after a quick journey into the woods.

However, such a journey would now take a healthy traveler deep into the werewolves’ new domain. It was too dangerous this year to undertake.

But the sinking fever soon left the members of the village little choice if they wanted to see their loved ones survive. Fortunately, they did have a few measures at their disposal: to some extent, the werewolves could be kept at bay by the smell of wolfsbane; their flesh could be burned with silver; and, although it was not enough to rely on all on its own, the color red could often stop them in their tracks.

WHAT BIG TEETH YOU HAVE,

A fine mist pervaded the woods that day as he crept out of camp, hoping to escape the ruckus for a little while. Sunlight sank through in pale fingers from the canopy, illuminating the forest floor below, such that there was more than enough to see by even in his human form. Although he harbored no hope of catching any of them, he let himself follow the sound of the birds as he stumbled along through the undergrowth.

To his heightened sense of smell, teasing his stomach with far-fetched ideas, the forest was teeming with all kinds of animals. Tobias caught the scent of jays and ravens and foxes and wood mice… and a human.

A human?

He wasn’t near enough to the village for that to make sense.

Curious and a little alarmed, he eventually gave in to a desire to follow the scent, now walking with slow, silent purpose among the moss and brambles of the woods he’d come to know as home. The growing strength of the scent banished any doubts from his mind: there was definitely a human around here somewhere, and the thought of fresh meat, even of a body so similar to his own, was whipping up his monstrous appetite. He didn’t want to hurt them, whoever it was, but it was all he could do not to break out into a run right then and there in search of the foolish intruder with intent to rip their throat out.

For the time being, he held onto the shape of his human form, haggard and pitiful though it was. Clothed in rags that had been stitched together after being torn to shreds again and again, he looked like a gangly young man, with dirty black hair, a sharp, protruding nose, and scabbed-over scratches on his gaunt, freckled face, stubbled with facial hair wispy enough to make him appear younger than his true age.

He came to a dead stop when he caught sight of who he was seeking. It was the hood of her cloak he saw first—dyed scarlet, as red as blood, mesmerizing in its intensity. He stood transfixed a moment before he even noticed the basket, or the axe.

The werewolf made no attempt to stay hidden, stepping out of the thicket a half a dozen yards behind her back and watching her with tired, unblinking hazel eyes, pupils dilated and hyperfocused on her.

With all his effort going into holding in the wolf that wanted to devour her, he had none left to mind his inflection or his unnerving stare as he spoke in a hollow wisp of a voice, distant and light as the mist.

“You shouldn’t be here.”
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