Marcus was running.
His father was dead.
His mother never truly avenged.
The muscles in his legs burned as he weaved through the trees.
His lungs felt like they might burst at the seams at any time.
Behind him, the shouting grew louder.
The young wolf scrambled to get away from where the bolt embedded itself into the tree beside him, cursing inwardly and growling at the sudden loss of momentum. Another backwards jump like that and he'd lose his lead on the hunters. Spurred on by a new wave of fear, he jolted forward once more, heading further from civilization.
After the death of his father, Marcus thought he'd retreated far enough into the woods to be safe. It had been months since he'd set eyes on another human, let alone since he'd walked as one himself. The first week or so was filled with stolen pastries and the occasional foray into a chicken coop. But after that proved to dangerous, he took to his fur and didn't look back. He'd hoped that the new Queen's hunters would be spooked by the woods surrounding the Witch's swamp, but something in the past month gave them unusual courage - enough that they now followed him with glee instead of hesitation in their voices.
All he wanted was to be left alone in the woods, and now even those weren't bloody safe anymore.
Apparently the new queen preferred dead over simply vanished from civilization.
Hence, the running.
Another bolt buried itself too close to his back for comfort and Marcus had to consciously jerk himself sideways instead of backwards.
It only occurred to him after the third and fourth bolt that the hunters might be herding him towards something and by that point, it was too late to do much more than attempt to scramble sideways to avoid the weighted nets being cast down upon him. He just barely dodged the first net, but one of the weights from the second struck him hard in the side and threw him to the ground. The wolf stumbled and rolled, trying to right himself before another net could be thrown. He growled in frustration when he felt his hind legs becoming entangled, twisting and thrashing in the hopes that the hunters would continue to keep their distance, even as it tangled him further in the net.
The young shifter let out a yelp of pain and fury when the ground suddenly lurched from under him and he was yanked backwards by the heavy netting. The hunters were laughing and cheering now, their voices a clamor of jeers and taunts as he refused to give up. If this was how he died, then he'd do his damnedest to bring as much pain to them as possible in the process.
One of the hunters holding his net released a hand to wipe his brow and Marcus took advantage of the slack to lunge at the brute across from him. His jaws clamped generously into the meat of his arm before the others recovered and ripped him backwards. He felt a smug sense of satisfaction as the motion also had the effect of tearing whatever flesh he held clenched in his teeth straight out of the hunter's arm. After they'd thrashed him around a bit more, he made a point of staring the man in the eye and then spitting the muscle and skin out - implying that it wasn't fit for consumption even by a starving wolf-child like himself.
Was it petty? Yes, but they were the ones who had invaded his solitary life in the woods with crossbows and torches and the intent to kill. He wasn't even fully grown yet, for ******** sake. Was it really too much to ask for a little slack? Apparently the new Queen thought so. Marcus had stayed in town just long enough to hear of her coronation and subsequent rise to chief among the wolves before the first wanted poster popped up and he got the hell out of there.
Honestly, it wasn't like he was the one eating people.
If they all tasted like the hunter's arm, he didn't think he'd ever even think about wanting to follow in his father's footsteps.
Speaking of which, he took the few moments of respite while the hunters regrouped and attended to their injured man to regain his breath and get that filthy taste out of his mouth. The hunters had him pretty well anchored to the ground at this point. He could do little more than lift his head and maneuver himself into as protective of a crouch as his tangled limbs allowed. For a moment, he considered changing back to a boy, but then thought better of it. The wolf, at least had it's claws and teeth. All the boy had was paper skin and sharp bones.
He commended the decision a few moments later when one of the uninjured hunters drove his boot into the wolf's side.
He muffled the yelp of pain and surprise with a snarl, twisting in an effort to snap at the offending limb before the brute got the idea to do it again.
"Look at 'im. Snarling and drooling like he thinks he's something fierce."
The hunter sneered. This time, his used the boot to press down on a section of net, forcing it taught over Marcus' head and firmly anchoring it to ground, despite his thrashing. The man's ugly mug leaned down close enough that Marcus could smell the turnips and mincemeat in his breath, gone rancid in the hours of the hunt.
"******** mutt doesn't know when to accept defeat. We oughta break his leg for what 'e did to Auron."
Marcus might not have been able to attack, but he could certainly still peel his upper lip back and show the hunter just what he thought of that idea. The man laughed, an ugly, raucous thing that echoed in the air, even as a few of the others snickered in response. The wolf twitched slightly when he felt what must have been the tip of an axe prodding at his flank as another man commented on how he didn't look to be much of anything except bone.
He snarled again, twisting away from the two men. The first hunter spat on him and then reared back for another kick. Before it could connect, however, there was the familiar thwap and thud of a crossbow bolt releasing and finding it's mark. The hunter reared back, roaring in pain and crutching at the projectile that now protruded from his thigh.
And if that wasn't a surprise, Marcus noticed that while the other hunters had jumped to the ready at the attack, none of them were moving in to help their injured comrade. Instead, silence rang in the small clearing and through it cut a clear voice.
"What part of my personal orders did you misunderstand?"
The hunters all lowered their weapons and their gazes. And though he knew there could only be one woman in the kingdom with that kind of authority, Marcus raised his.
Like a vision from some bedtime fable, she came striding up in a cloak the color of blood with a face like a storm. The crossbow in her hands was already reloaded.
"Was it the part where you were to wait for my command upon capturing the wolf, the fact that I was dictating his fate, or the part where I am your Queen?"
If he was not so opposed to the idea of her, Marcus thought he might rather like this Red Queen. She certainly had the guts and good aim to scare the grisly old hunters. Alas though, she hated him and he hated the fact that she killed his pack and now wanted him dead. As if summoned by his thoughts, the queen's gaze broke from the chastised men to land upon Marcus. He felt her anger, cold and calculated like a brand upon his being as she looked upon him with disdain. Around them, the hunters moved to take stock of their supplies and tend to the two injured men. The few that had been holding the nets taught replaced their strength with stakes driven into the ground so they could be of use elsewhere.
All the while, the new queen stared at him until it was practically just the two of them. Marcus' chest heaved from exertion and his own anger at the situation. He'd done nothing wrong save existing with the blood of his father and yet she still wanted him dead. He was not young or naive enough to think that he could defeat her - not with the allegiance of wolves and hunters alike, but he had no intentions of going quietly into death either.
Finally, the queen spoke.
"You're quite the spirited thing, aren't you?"
Marcus dignified that with a snarl.
The queen raised an eyebrow.
She said simply, her words carrying the weight of a command Marcus had no desire to follow. He snarled again, showing as much teeth as possible.
The young queen stepped forward and crouched down so that her head was almost directly above his. When she spoke, her words her sharp as a sword and fierce as any flame.
"Change. Back. I know you can, boy."
He did not snarl, but the defiance remained in his eyes. The queen let out a huff, just loud enough for the two of them to hear.
"Fine. Have it your way. The hunters can kill you like a dog. I'm sure you'll have noticed they have no lost love for your kind."
She responded dismissively, standing and turning to walk away.
Marcus' anger burned hotter and he had never been known for his self-control. It was, perhaps, easier than he'd like to be goaded into responding - even if it gave the queen what she wanted.
"I'm half their kind, too."
He bit out, instantly gratified by the way the queen tensed at his words. The shift had always come easily to Marcus, as he was naturally a part of both worlds. It had only taken a year or so to learn how to perform it silently and he enjoyed the way the absence of cracking and groaning caught the queen off guard.
F a l l o n SF_-
· Wed Oct 11, 2017 @ 01:51am · 0 Comments