by BIG BAD WOLF
A collection of various short stories and poetry.
|A Writer's Group story. Must include following words; wolf, cat, fishing, librarian, ferret, driving, detective, dog, eating (700-1000 word long)
A wolf runs for many reasons.
The Wolf Run – to win, one had to have the cunning of a ferret, the grace of a cat, the knowledge of a detective, with the researching capabilities of a librarian. The participants needed a driving force to propel them through three days of hardship, eating whatever they could catch from fishing, foraging, and sometimes trapping. All the while, they were hunted by wolves, and that was the least of their worries. Actually, sometimes it was the wolves who were the difference between life and death for the participants, for these wolves were werewolves, and there wasn’t a cowardly dog among them.
Jacob looked at the other participants as he walked around town. The humans, they were between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. The werewolves, one couldn’t really tell – some were as young as twenty, and others could be easily a hundred and fifty, yet look like thirty, if that! Jacobs looked at the cloth on his wrist. It was colored red and blue. Only the one wearing its mate could hunt him, according to the rules. He then looked at the werewolves, who were in their human form, and saw the one who was to hunt him – Cedric. Around his neck, like a collar, was the match to the cloth around Jacob’s wrist. The werewolf looked up, and noticed him. Cedric gave a gesture, and Jacob nodded. The human began walking towards a hovel. A little while later, Cedric joined him by the door.
“Jacob, we need to talk,” the werewolf said.
“About what?” Jacob asked.
“Alice,” said Cedric.
“We talked about this last night,” said Jacob.
“Listen, I’ll let you-”
“And my answer’s yes.”
Cedric paused. “You mean, you have no issues with me marrying your sister.”
“She talked to me about it,” said Jacob. “She’s more stubborn than I am. Wouldn’t let me get to sleep until I gave my word that I’d let you marry her.”
Cedric grinned. “I can see her doing that.”
“Just one thing, don’t make her unhappy.
“Why? Would you come after me with a silver-lined axe?”
“No, but she would.”
Cedric laughed. “Rest assured, I will not make her unhappy, if I can help it. I’m quite fond of my head after all.”
Jacob smiled. “Good. Now, let’s tell Alice.”
A little while later, Jacob was in line with the other humans. The werewolves, in their wolf forms, were right behind them. The humans would be given a thirty minute head start before the wolves began their pursuit; a holdover from when there was more than money on the line – at one point, it have been a matter of life or death to make it the three days. Jacob looked at the high end spectators, the Lords and Ladies of the land, most of them werewolves.
“Why are they up there?” one of the other runners muttered. “They should be dead.”
“They aren’t like they were back in my grandfather’s grandfather’s time,” said Jacob.
“It’s not right,” the other runner said. “They’re just animals. Everyone knows that they eat humans.”
Jacob glared at the other runner. “Only in special situations, like murder.”
The other runner looked at him. “Everyone knows that they killed my father.”
Jacob growled. “Maybe if he stuck to thieving, instead of killing that girl, the one that hunted him down would have settled for breaking his arm or leg.”
The other runner growled back. “What are you asking for?”
Jacob looked back at the werewolves. This was the real purpose of the run – how much would the werewolves be willing to pay them, to be their servants – those who performed better, had room to bargain for when it came to getting pay. He then looked at the other runner. “Four hundred gold coins a month. If he comes close to it, or over, I won’t argue much.”
“I’m asking for a thousand gold coins, a day.”
Jacob scoffed at this. “Kristof, I doubt that even the richest Lord or Lady would be willing to pay you that much. The way you are, I wouldn’t even offer you a copper coin a day. You’re far from helpful, you’re never friendly, and you’re always arguing. “
Kristof grinned. “You’ll see. I’m the fastest one here.”
Jacob grinned back. “Only because you run whenever there’s work.”
“I’m the best runner here,” said Kristof.
“I won’t argue that,” said Jacob.
Then, a whistle blew, and the runners began moving, with Kristof out in front. However, his lead wasn’t for long, once he stepped on some twigs, and fell into a pit.
Jacob grinned, as he and the others slowed to a walk, and headed over to the pit. “You alright in there, Kristof?”
“Just get me out of here!” Kristof yelled.
“Are you injured?”
“Then climb out yourself,” said Jacob. “After all, the rules say that, unless you’re injured, no one is required to help you out. As it is, you’ve made no friends here. See you when this is over.”
At this, Jacob and the others resumed moving. “Remember!” Jacob yelled. “It’s not just the wolves you have to avoid! The forest is filled with traps!”
A while later, one of the younger runners, a sixteen-year old teenager, looked at him. “Are the traps dangerous?”
“No, they are not dangerous,” said Jacob. “Worse come to worse, you might break a leg, or an arm. That being said, the wolves are always on your trail, and the one assigned to hunt you will claim you, and take you back. Is this your first time?”
“Yeah,” said the runner. “My father got killed in a tree cutting accident, and my family needs money to make ends meet.”
“Did you mention that to the one hunting you?” Jacob asked.
“I might have,” the runner said. “The one after me is Fredric.”
“Make sure you mention it to him when he catches you,” said Jacob. “It might motivate him into giving you a higher wage than he otherwise would.”
“So, we’re going to get caught?”
Jacob grinned. “Sooner or later. Last time anyone made it the full three days was ten years ago.”
“What happens if someone makes it?”
“They get what’s called The Favor,” said Jacob. “Anything you want, and they are Honor-Bound to grant it to you. Last person to get it became the Son-in-Law of the one who was hunting him, officially.”
“What would you do if you got The Favor?” another runner asked.
“Ask that Cedric be given permission to marry my sister,” said Jacob. “They are crazy about each other. The trick would be convincing his father to allow it. He wouldn’t mind his sons taking a female human as a bitch, as it were, for when they get lonely. For him to allow one to be a Mate to one of his blood though, that would take a Favor, of one sort or another.”
Then, they heard the Howl.
“This is where we split up,” Jacob said, for the benefit of the first-time runners. “Do whatever you can to avoid being caught be the wolf hunting you – run, hide, fight, or trap – anything to delay the inevitable.”
Another howl came, a solitary one.
“And That was Kristof being caught,” said Jacob. “I guess he didn’t make it out of that pit. Your wolf will howl once they’ve caught you. If you hear three howls in a quick succession, it means there’s an emergency, and help is needed. The wolves will not hunt you then. Alright, and good luck.”
With that, the group scattered, trying to put as much distance between themselves, and the wolves.
Some hours later, Jacob was sharpening a piece of wood that was long enough to be used as a staff, and thick enough to withstand blows. Granted, a sharpened stick wouldn’t do much to a werewolf, and Cedric would be smart enough not to attack him from the front, but, if used in the right spot, it could make short work of most anything else, though one had to be careful of the few bears in the area.
Then he noticed something, or rather felt something. He listened carefully. There was a silence where once there’d been birds chirping. Moving carefully, he got his back to a thick tree. He listened to the silence. Where would the attack come from?
“Fifty gold coins a month.”
Jacob chuckled. “Too low.”
That was when it occurred. A grey blur with some red and blue rushed toward him from the side. Moving quickly, Jacob swung his staff, and caught Cedric a good blow on the head.
Jacob took off. “You need to up your price!” he yelled.
That was part of the game. Wolves set the minimum wage, so it was up to the human to convince them to increase it to what they wanted. Then again, fifty gold coins a month would have been a good wage, but Jacob was better than that, and Cedric knew that. However, he needed to go through the ritual as well – it wouldn’t do for the Lord’s son to offer the servant’s desired wage as soon as he caught sight of him. Jacob had to prove that he was worth it, to all those watching, and to the Lord as well. The next time Cedric came near Jacob, the offer would be higher, probably sixty gold coins, or thereabouts. This would continue, until Jacob was unable to continue evading the wolf.
It was then that he heard a howl. Of course, this wasn’t the first howl he’d heard, nor the second, but it was the first time he’d heard three howls in quick succession. He stopped, and located the direction the howls came from. That was when he heard some branches breaking, and Cedric revealed himself.
“Sounds like trouble,” the werewolf said.
The pair walked towards the howls.
“By the way, sixty?”
Jacob grinned. “Not high enough.”
The pair, along with many other runners and werewolves soon came to a tree, where they found a young werewolf with the rookie runner Jacob had talked to earlier. The human was holding his arm, and one of his legs was in an unnatural position.
“He climbed a tree to get away from me,” the werewolf said. “So, I changed form to pursue him. He continued to climb, until he got to a branch that couldn’t support his weight. It was an accident.”
“It’s alright,” said Cedric. “These things happen.” He then walked up to the human, along with Jacob. “Do you think you’ll live?”
The human chuckled nervously. “I wish I could of done better.”
“It’s alright,” said Cedric. “You’re not the first one to break an arm or a leg.”
“What happens now?” the human asked, as Jacob took the medical kit from the werewolf that had been after him.
“Now, you have bargaining power,” said Jacob. “Think of a good price, one you believe you’re worth, and Cecil there will have to think on it, before trying to lower it, but not by much.”
“Alright,” the human said. He looked at the werewolf that had been after him. “Sixty-five gold coins?”
Cecil gave a polite smile. “I won’t argue with that offer.”
“Now, that things are settled, let’s get the stretcher ready,” said Cedric.
A little while later, Cecil and his human began leaving, the human strapped to a stretcher, which Cecil pulled behind him, moving carefully.
Cedric looked at Jacob. “Eighty?”
Jacob grinned. “Not enough.”
Several days, and many howls and accidents, and near misses, later, Jacob stood along the edge of a stream, his spear ready to take a trout. He stabbed, and thrusted, and stabbed again, and thrusted again, and on his spear was three good sized trout. He watched a fourth get away. He was slightly disappointed, but three trout would still be a good meal. He brought the fish over to a prepared fire, cleaned them, and set them roasting on green twigs.
He noticed the silence, once again. “Cedric?”
The werewolf showed himself. “You’re the last one,” he said.
Jacob nodded. “I heard. What’s your offer?”
Cedric grinned. “Three hundred ninety.”
Jacob looked at the sun, and looked out at the plain on the other side of the stream. “Three days are almost up.”
“In another hour,” said Cedric.
“You know the stories about how werewolves used to get their servants,” said Jacob.
Cedric looked towards the plain. “They’d abduct people and force them to survive in the wilderness with very little. If the werewolf caught them, that person was forced to work for the werewolf. If they did a good job, they’d get their freedom in a year, but if not, well, you know how things were.”
“Of course, there was also what would happen if they made it to the river,” said Jacob.
“If, they made it, if!” said Cedric. “If they made it, the human could get whatever they wanted. If they made it, that is. But, as you and I know, most didn’t.”
“So, here’s my offer,” said Jacob. “Enjoy some fish with me, and afterwards, we’ll run to the river. If you catch me, three hundred ninety gold coins, but if I get to the river, four hundred.”
Cedric chuckled, as he sat down. “Time might be up by then, with it being five miles between here and there.”
“Ah, but that’s when I can ask your father the Favor,” said Jacob.
Cedric grinned. “I’m good with that.”
“Don’t make it too easy on me,” said Jacob.
The pair shared a laugh, and sat down to watch the fish cook. The Wolf Run would end soon, and the ending would be a memorable one.