Dagur now stood again in the clearing where his mission had started. He had returned the day of Anima’s death and one day ahead of his allotted time. He was welcomed back in to the clan with open arms and congratulations from his clanmates. His gift of Anima’s notes was greeted with great approval but not with nearly as much as the heart of Anima himself. The clan had truly appreciated that particular gift. It was now the following night and the moon still shone brightly overhead. Again in front of him was a small fire and standing next to it, his father. This time however there were two additional members of the clan standing with him. To his right stood Dagur’s mother, and to his left stood the clan tattooist, Húoflúr. He was an old and grizzled member of the clan, and had seen many more moons than most of the clan members. He had held this position since before anyone could remember and was possibly the best tattoo artist alive. He had to be very quick and precise in his work as the members of Varúlfur Lykánthropas healed with extreme speed. He was here to perform the rite that would recognize Dagur as a full member of the clan. Dagur approached them. His father gave him a nod and his mother one of her beautiful smiles. All present wore ceremonial clothing over their werewolf forms. This was a special occasion after all.
Húoflúr spoke “Come forward Dagur. Are you ready to complete the rite of Helgiathöfn Fullrothsár?”
Dagur looked around at the edges of the clearing, at the burning eyes of his clanmates just inside the darkness of the forest. He then turned to Húoflúr and said “Yes. I am ready.”
Then Húoflúr spoke in a booming voice “Then by the powers of our ancestors, the Forn Sjálfur, I pronounce you a full member of the clan of Varúlfur Lykánthropas. Now step forward and receive your Merkja Deyja, the mark of our order and your own personal Auokenni that will identify you as a member of this clan.” Dagur stepped forward and opened his left hand palm up ready to receive the Merkja Deyja. Húoflúr took a small knife and shaved away the layer of silky fur covering his palm. Then both of them proceeded to kneel and Dagur placed his hand, still facing the palm upwards on a large working stone. This would give Húoflúr the stability he needed to work accurately. Húoflúr then took his small kit of tools and selected his best tattooing needle. This was an important ceremony and only the best would do. As Húoflúr started the very important work before him, Dagur winced at the pain he felt in his hand. This did not last long however as it was soon overwhelmed by the pride and joy he felt at becoming a full member of his clan. Soon Húoflúr was finished and they both stood Húoflúr gripping Dagur’s wrist and raising his hand high for all to see. Howls and songs of joy and delight shook the night air and could be heard for miles around. The clan emerged from the trees and began to dance and sing around the fire, for tonight was a night of celebration and festivity. Húoflúr instructed Dagur to lie down on his back near the fire to receive his Auokenni. This would be his personal mark of identification. Dagur had chosen to have his placed around his right eye and Húoflúr proceeded to shave this area as well. Of course all of this would have been easier to do in human form but it was traditional to have the ceremony performed as a full werewolf. Besides the fur would grow back before the night was through and Dagur wanted this night to be special. Again happiness overwhelmed the pain of the needle as he received his mark. After the process was complete Dagur and Húoflúr stood again and the clan rejoiced to see his face, now brought into adulthood by the staining of his skin. The entire clan rejoiced and reveled the whole night long as Dagur was given much praise and many gifts. He was now a full member of the clan and would be free to find his own den, make his own decisions and choose a mate among the clan. As to this last issue, several beautiful females had made it known that they would be pleased to have him as a mate, but he was not yet sure he was ready for a responsibility as large as that one. He planned to live at least a small time on his own and then think more about what he would do.
It was the next day it was time for Dagur to decide on a den and a territory of his own. He had seen several promising locations but the one he liked most was a large cave atop of a hill with fewer trees than the surrounding area. The cave had a soft sandy floor and had four separate room-like areas. The first room was just inside the entrance and had a narrow opening, just big enough to be comfortable but not so large as to admit more than one person at a time, but soon widened into a spacious area that was about fifteen feet long and ten feet wide. This was an ideal place for any training equipment he wanted to keep nearby for easy use, werewolves needed exercise like anyone else, and it was good for him to keep his skills practiced. The entrance to the second room was just at the back right corner of the first and was also narrow but then widened after a few feet. This room was about ten foot square and would be perfect for the preparation and consumption of any food he needed, werewolves generally consumed averagely at least twenty pounds of raw meat in a day and could consume about sixty-five pounds at a time when gorging. Two rooms joined with this one and the first of them lead of to the right and was about eight feet long and four feet wide. This room had several natural stone shelves and room where he would carve in more. This made it great for food storage and for any other items he wanted to be accessible but out of the way. The final room was accessed by a tunnel that started in the back left corner of the second room and curved gently to the left for about ten feet. This tunnel led to a smaller eight foot square area that he would use for sleeping.
Just outside the entrance to the cave shading it nicely during the entire day was a large oak tree. This particular tree was the only one near the summit of the hill and this gave it a commanding view over the surrounding area. The woods around the hill were made of deciduous trees with pines sprinkled amongst them. Twenty feet below and to the right of the cave entrance was a small spring that bubbled forth fresh clean water. From the spring issued forth a small stream that ran peacefully down the hill to join a much larger river at the base of the hill and off to the right side. This in turn ran westward toward the sea, and was a great source of excitement to the local animals during the spring salmon run. He occasionally even enjoyed a few of the salmon himself. Yes this would be a perfect place for him to live.
It was now one moon later and he had successfully marked the territory around his den and given it all the comforts of home. His sleeping area now had a wooden bed he had made himself and a straw mattress covered in a clean white cloth. He had finally chipped away several shelves into his storage room and had filled it with the beginnings of a pantry. Its shelves contained a bag of flour, a cask of oil, several large pieces of smoked meat, and in the back corner aging nicely, a large round cheese he was making himself. Had he decided to subsist on these alone they would be gone in less than a week but most of his food was the raw meat that he hunted for almost every day. In the adjoining room he had placed a small wooden table with two chairs, and had polished a long ledge into a very nice counter. He had wished to do what small amount of cooking he did in the room but had no place for smoke to exit should he light a fire. So instead he had a fire just outside the entrance to his cave. The room that separated this area from the entrance to the cave was filled with all manner of equipment such as swords and knives. In one corner he had placed a wooden post and used this to practice with his throwing weapons. In short he had created a very livable environment, and enjoyed his freedom profusely.
Presently however it was time for him to leave his pleasant dwelling for a hunt. This was one of the highlights of his day, the chasing of an animal, flying through the forest, it never ceased to thrill him. These were the thoughts that entered his head as he stalked through the forest, straining every sense, his sight, smell, and hearing searching the forest for game. Suddenly he stopped. A smell hung before him in the air, he followed it for a short time and found a set of tracks leading through the forest. Just as he thought, a deer headed westward toward the sea at a leisurely pace. These were one of the staples of his diet and also proved thrilling to catch. He pursued the tracks, increasing his pace, and when he reached the point at which he smelled the deer more strongly than before he stopped. He knew the area ahead. It was a small dip in the land with a stream running through. The deer had likely come here for a drink and would probably look for food directly afterward. He knew a place up to the left of the indention that deer frequented for the soft clover between the trees. He slowly circled around until he was in position, just behind the cover of a group of bushes and with the wind blowing his scent away from the deer. He could hear it now drawing closer, its small footsteps pecking on the ground. Finally he saw it moving gingerly through the trees until it reached the patches of clover. It lifted its head to be sure that there were no enemies about. Satisfied that there were no threats immediately present it began to graze on the soft leaves. Dagur began to slide silently between the trees until he was near the right flank of the deer. He then began to stealthily move forward and was about to pounce upon the grazing creatures back when snap! He could instantly tell it was the unique sound of a branch breaking beneath a foot, a foot that did not belong to him. He had no time however to find and punish the person responsible for the deer had looked up and seen him. As it fled he broke into chase and slowly gained upon the sprinting animal and took one final leap, reaching out with his right hand as he did so and snagging the deer’s back leg. He made sure he held firm as both he and the deer crashed to the ground and rolled several times. Before the unlucky animal could regain its feet he leapt upon it and sank his fangs deep into its throat. As the deer died he looked it in the eyes and whispered “Þakka þér fyrir þetta sanguinem sem hefur verið úthellt. Rest in peace brother, the sunny vales and windswept hills await you.” He then silently gathered the body of the deer and returned through the forest to his cave.
When he arrived he placed the carcass outside and retrieved a small leather bag filled with tools from the first room of the cave. From this bag he removed a skinning knife and proceeded to skin and gut the deer. Having finished this he took the vital organs, save the rumen and large intestine, and placed them in a large earthenware jar. He then proceeded to remove the brain and placed it into the jar as well. He then placed the lid on the jar and sealed it with a thick layer of tallow. He then took the jar to a place in the stream that was especially cool. Dagur sat the jar into the water beside the two others already there. Then he returned to the mouth of the cave and placed the deer’s skin on one of the stretching racks he kept handy. It was through these skins after all that he acquired the few things he didn’t make or find himself. He then removed one of the back legs of the deer and placed it over the fire to begin smoking. As he waited he removed another tool from his kit and used it to scrape the remaining flesh off of the hide. This he proceeded to eat as he removed it. When this was done he set the rack up to dry and moved on to butchering the deer. He removed the two front legs and one side of ribs from the carcass. These he would take to his parents den later. As an afterthought he also placed with these the hooves from the deer. His parents had a new litter of pups this year and he knew they would love to play with them for a while before crunching them up. The rest of the meat he kept for himself. He cut away the backstraps and ate them both sitting by the fire. He also stripped the meat from the ribs before quieting his hunger. The rest of the meat he placed atop a large earthenware dish so as not to lose any blood and carried inside to his storage room, placing the meat at the back for his evening meal. The remains of the deer he took into the forest and left for the scavengers. When he returned he finished smoking the haunch over the fire, placed it in the storeroom and then returned to take the meat to his parents den.
Dagur had made the five mile crossing to his parents’ den relatively quickly, as he was eager to see the new pups once again. They always managed to put a smile on his face with their antics and brightened his day considerably. Yes, now that he thought about it he had a very good life. He felt that way until he reached the den of his parents. As soon as he arrived he caught three distinct scents. One was the scent of blood, another the reek of humans, and the third was the stench of death. Dagur instantly dropped the meat he had been carrying and sprinted the rest of the way to the den. It was a cave like his own but situated in a densely wooded area. He finally arrived at the entrance to the den and he smelled even more strongly the rank odor of blood. Dagur already knew what he would find but ventured inside anyway. There they were, the corpses of his parents, even now in death they still huddled over their pups, even though they were also cold and lifeless. He bowed his head and spoke “Hvíla í friði göfugt sjálfur sem gaf líf sitt fyrir aðra, og þú lítil saklaus líf voru teknar allt of fljótt.” He then looked around at the blood spattered walls, far too much blood to be only that of his kin. Good he thought, at least his parents had managed to take a good number of humans with them. It was a saying among the clan that to go to the sunny vales and windswept hills alone was dishonorable. His parents had surely not gone alone.
Dagur began to breathe deeply. He took in the smell of the humans and knew he could now pick it out when he found it. That was exactly what he intended to do, find the humans responsible and kill them. Only once their murders were avenged would the bones of his family rest in the sacred caves of the dead. He left the cave and immediately started to follow the scent of humans. He traveled swiftly through the forest and soon found himself nearing the edge. He stopped knowing it would be wisest for him to change into his human form. His body took pleasure in the change but his mind was fixated upon the revenge of his family’s murders. He considered where he would start looking. He could always follow their scent trail and hope it led directly to them. Dagur, however had been taught to minimize chances and this left a lot to chance. He had a contact, a fur trader, who lived close to here. He would try to gain information from him about anyone suspicious he had seen entering the forest. The man had an eye for secrets, but Dagur had fortunately managed to keep his secure.
Now in human form he set off, leaving the forest and heading toward the residence of Dýra Pellium, the man that bought his furs and, sometimes, provided him with information. It wasn’t long before he arrived at the small hut that Dýra called home. It was a modest dwelling, as Dýra lived well within his means. He had told Dagur that he planned on saving up enough money to start a larger operation somewhere along the coast. Dagur couldn’t say he would miss the human when he was gone but he did value his services, and his odd acceptance of Dagur’s avoidance to any questions that might jeopardize his safety. Yes, he had learned to get along quite well with the old man, and as much as he hated it, he now needed his help.
Dagur walked up to the door and knocked softly. He heard a loud, gruff voice from inside call out “Wah… who is it?”
He responded “It’s me, Dagur”. He heard movement from inside and a fumbling sound at the door. Finally it opened and he saw the face of the grizzled old fur trader.
“Ahh, Dagur” said the man “come in, come in, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you.”
“It has been a while since I’ve been here” said Dagur. They both walked inside and Dagur once again glanced around at the small cabin and its contents. It looked like a typical hunter’s lodge tucked away on the outskirts of the forest. There were several choice furs hanging on racks and piles of cured ones tucked away in odd corners, awaiting a buyer. The building consisted of only two rooms, a kitchen and workroom and the room used for sleeping and daily living. In the kitchen there was a small wood burning stove, used for cooking, and a polished wooden counter supported by posts. This was used for the preparation of food or alternatively for Dýra’s work with his furs. He mainly sold cured furs to buyers that would then create goods from them, but he sometimes took special orders and created products himself. They walked over toward the living area and sat down at a small table. Dagur decided to proceed directly to the point “Dýra, I need your help with something.”
Dýra responded quickly enough “of course, of course, what do you need Dagur?”
“I was wondering whether you had seen anyone recently that looked out of place, not the usual foresters and hunters, someone who didn’t belong?” asked Dagur.
“Ahhh yes, now that you mention it there were some newcomers arrived a few days back. Some Imperial Venatores I believe, we don’t get their kind here very often. Yes about thirty or so passed this way, probably headed up north along the road” Dýra replied.
“Thank you Dýra, that is most helpful” Dagur said as he stood to leave. Dýra continued to ramble on in his chair
“Well you know me, I always try to help when I can, you know there was this one time when …” He was still going on as Dagur closed the door behind him and left the house.
Dýra had been right about everything. The group of Venatores had passed to the north and made camp, although their numbers had decreased due to the last work of his parents. They had taken care of all but twelve of the well-trained men. He could see them now readying the camp for night, cooking food and squaring away the men’s belongings for the march tomorrow. How he wanted to simply race into the camp and rip and tear and rend until all fell before him, but he knew better than that. These were men that had been specifically trained to hunt the nonhuman races of the land. He must wait until nightfall. That would be the time to strike, and even then he must be cautious. He watched the camp, taking note of everything he saw, the position of the two sentries, the route they took around the camp, the arrangement of the tents and even the positions of the surrounding trees. Finally all were asleep but the two sentries; his heightened hearing could sense the regular, deep breaths coming from every tent. It was time for him to begin.
He retreated deeper into the forest to begin his shift. He had traveled this far in human form to escape any detection or the suspicion of anyone he might meet on the road. Now he would need a different form to help him with his bloody work. He was far enough away from the camp that he would be undetected and so began to concentrate on changing his body. He felt his fingernails lengthen into long, sharp claws, his hands crackle and snap as they grew larger and he felt quivers of ecstasy shoot up his arms as they to lengthened and grew. His canines reformed into fangs and his nose and mouth began to form into a snout with a crunch that elated him. Joy flooded through him as the bones in his legs began to split and fracture, reforming their shape. The endorphins sang through his veins like liquid happiness as his muscles became denser and his nerves harder. His ears grew and rose to the top of his head with a feeling of delight, and he settled into a euphoric bliss as his transformation grew complete. As he stalked back toward the camp of the Venatores he was not frightened of death or pain or even of failure. He knew what he needed to do, what he wanted to do. He would go to the camp and spill the lifeblood of every one of the Venatores, and he would enjoy it.