The Far Side of the World: Anemos
The fog over the bay was heavy, thicker than it had been in years. One could barely see more than five feet in front of themselves at the best. Sailing in the weather was tantamount to suicide so the the docks were largely shut down. The little beacons of lamp light were the only points to mark the edge of the docks and the start of the blackness of the ocean.
The Kohese guards on duty were far from the most attentive, getting the shift as soon as more capable men realized the night would be foggy and boring. No captain in their right mind would try to sail in that kind of weather anyway and the need for more diligent eyes was far from necessary.
“Bior...do you see that?” He slapped his friend's leg, trying to rouse him from the rather light slumber. Bior coughed and sputtered awake going to grab his weapon but realized it was just Tam. He got to his feet and stared off in the direction that his friend was looking. He rubbed his eyes and then leaned against the railing and squinted against the fog.
“I see fog.” Bior quipped.
“No, there!” Tam pointed, and Bior tried his best to follow his friends pointed gaze. The fog out further was whipping around being pushed about by something cutting through it quickly. It made areas just clear enough for them to see the mast of the ship whipping up eddies in the fog. They could tell it was coming in fast and was already too close. They couldn’t even move as the scene unfolded before them.
The sails were in tatters and the flapping fabric snapped like whip cracks as they pushed the fog in every direction. It slammed into the dock and the sound of wood shattering and metal twisting was akin to an explosion and nails on a chalkboard. Given the watchtower was attached to the docks when the ship hit it also shook and the two men. They held on for dear life as the tower they were in shuddered and bent back and forth threatening to fling them over the railing. The ship cut clean through the wooden docks and destroyed even the stone portion of the docks by the time it came to a full stop. Its front end was out of the water and a house was in ruins.
Everyone nearby should have heard that horrible sound and felt the impact, but they had a job to do.
Bior steadied himself again and reached up and began to furiously sound the alarm bell. The pattern he used let the others know it was an emergency but not specifically an attack. The bell alerted other towers and other posts and their own bells began to ring out in response until there was a chain all around the docks and well into the city.
“I’m going down to see!” Tam said excitedly, he was burning with adrenaline and his voice quivered with it. Bior quickly grabbed his friend’s arm.
“Are you serious? A ship just crashes into the dock and you want to go running right for it?” Bior pinched his brow, but Tam was already at the ladder and sliding down the smooth rungs. Bior pretended he wasn’t going after but when he heard the sharp whistle from below he followed down the ladder and towards the wreck. The ship groaned and creaked against the docks, wood that was strained, snapped now and then sending ear splitting echos bouncing from the buildings.
The two were not alone when they came upon the wreck, others had come down, mostly other guards, but a few dock hands and average citizens. Bior was surprised by the numbers. He had been quick to stay where they were but it seems others were far more like Tam in their desire to run towards the trouble to try and offer aid.
“You two! With me!” They heard the sharp voice and knew it was a sergeant. They watched the man quickly jog up to them and pointed right to the ship. His eyes were filled with zeal. They knew he lived for moments like this, while they would have lived to avoid such things. They both stammered some objection but were immediately rebuked with a sharp finger jabbed into their chests and an admonishment that was a mix of both Anemos and Kohese slurs. Bior and Tam straightened their backs and gripped their weapons just a little firmer. The sergeant led the way and they followed, their hesitation clear in their steps.
The ship bobbed up and down as dockhands were trying to lash it to the broken foundations best they could with ropes tossed and tied to anything they could get purchase around. Letting it potentially wash back out to sea only to slam into a more vulnerable portion of the city was what they wanted to avoid.
The three men jumped from one piece of broken dock to another, Bior and Tam’s hesitation melted away with each leap. They were perhaps not the best soldiers but they were decently trained and the closer they came to the danger the more they were able to fall back on the training and the discipline it imparted. They made sure leaps from broken pilon to broken stonework until they were on the deck of the ship. The sergeant drew his short sword and a small center grip buckler from his hip. There was no light on the boat but the illumination of laplights was enough to show them there was ample blood, and it did not appear it was from the wreck.
“Keep your eyes open.” The sergeant said, as he found a staircase down to the lower decks. There was little light except that which was cast through the broken hull of the vessel and illuminated it in thick bands that were accentuated by the thick haze of dust that swirled with the fog that was spilling into the ship's interior. The Sergeant gestured towards the stairs and Tam was the first to step up, his spear pointed down into the darkness. Bior followed to his side, and the Sergeant took up the rear.
They inched down into the bowels of the ship, and they were faced with a scene of utter carnage. The floor was slick and sticky with blood, the walls were coated in ofal. In the limited light they could only see some, but when they made it into the main hold of the ship where a giant hole had been torn in the side the light illuminated a scene of horror, broken bodies that looked like they were wrent by a beast were strewn about. This was far more than could have been done by the wreck alone.
“What could have done this.” Tam said without looking back to his friend, at least until he heard the sound of vomit splashing against the still wet floor. Bior was leaning against his spear spewing his light dinner onto the woodwork.
“There!” The sergeant yelled as he turned to a still dark recess at the head of the ship.
His exclamation and the focus on the area was met with a low growling reply. It was far too deep and heavy to be a wolf or even a bear. It snapped Tam’s attention from his friend and to the sound coming from the darkness. He leveled his spear. Bior wiped his mouth and did the same, but his hands were shaking so much the tip of his spear looked to be writing in the air.
“Out!” The sergeant yelled, stomping his lead foot against the deck and swiping his sword in a flourish, in an attempt to perhaps goad whatever it was out of the darkness. If it was an animal they needed to assess if it was salvageable or if it needed to be put down.
“Out.” A slow baleful voice replied, as if the darkness itself was learning to speak. From the blackness a form skulked forward, its eyes a glowing pink. At first it seemed smaller, maybe eye level to them, but then it rose and the eyes were feet above them. It stepped forward and the boards below it groaned in protest of its weight. The lights cast through the ship illuminated it’s shaggy muscular body.
The sergeant looked stoic and brave to the two behind him, but in the face of the monster before him he was unable to move, frozen by his fear and the realization that this thing was beyond any bravado he had.
The violence was so fast Bior couldn’t even see what really happened until the creature had stopped to stare at him, the body of the sergeant in its huge clawed hand and the head and upper torso torn off and hanging from it’s maw.
His spear was dropped and he turned and ran. Tam was right behind him, they barely knew where they were going.
“RUN!” Bior screamed as he practically bounced off the walls in his breakneck sprint to the exit of the ship. The two men scrambled up the broken stairs and to the top deck. The careful jumps they had made to get to the ship were forgotten and they used their full sprint to leap from the bobbing ship to the solid landing of the pier.
Tam hit the ground and didn;t stop running. He split the crowd and was off into the misty darkness.
Bior slowed and looked at the ship and then the people, his eyes were wide with fear. “Run! Run you fools! The ship!” Run!” He couldn’t even get his word together to describe the thing he saw on the ship. What could he even say to get his point across, he had no frame of reference for it. Such a thing shouldn’t have even existed in the first place.
The gathered group, murmured in response. Some weren’t sure what he was saying, others were too busy trying to wrestle heavy ropes to moreing in an attempt to keep what was left of the ship from being drawn back out to sea. Their sounds were immediately silenced by the thump of something heavy and wet on the stonework. They all panned their heads to the sound, and standing more than ten feet tall, was the hulking furred form of the werewolf. .
No one moved as it looked from person to person with a slow pink gaze. “Run.” It half spoke and half grumbled, the voice seemed disjointed form the monster, sad and angry all at once. But one thing was for sure, it was much more clear than when it had spoken on the ship.
Ropes slacked in hands, and knees quaked but no one moved. They were frozen in their disbelief of it all.
He stepped forward and roared at them again. “RUN!” The yelled voice seemed painfully human, strained and fearful, but as the word trailed off it became bestial until it was just a growl.
The crowd broke, everyone was running in every direction. A few people jumped right into the water, risking being crushed by the bobbing broken ship instead of being devoured by the monster before them.
The werewolf grasped its own face, groaned and whined a pink crown of energy flared to life around his head and then it howled into the swirling thick fog.
Shane winced and rolled over in the wet grass that swaddled him. He was naked and covered in blood and grime. He coughed and felt the pain in his stomach. He grasped his bare midriff and rolled over onto his side and threw up. A stream that seemed to never end. He shut his eyes, he had stopped looking when this happened, he didn’t need to see the disgusting mix of wet chunks that came from him. When it finished he rolled away and started to crawl and found a bit of water, a pool of something stagnant but he didn’t care, he drank some, it tasted slick but it didn’t deter him. He splashed his face and wiped his hands and the pool turned a red with it.
He got to his feet and looked around, the noon sun was partially obscured by the clouds, but was doing its best to burn away the lingering fog and cover. He had no idea where he was but he could see a city not too far away from where he was and black swirls of smoke were rising from it. Between him and the smoking city were some farmhouses that were dotted between well kept fields.
He made a run towards the nearest farmhouse and skulked up to it at the last moment. It appeared to be empty so he jumped it’s short fence and got closer. He walked to the door and tried the handle, it was open. He stepped in and through some rummaging he found a pair of pants and shirt and a thinning cowl. He donned it all and a pair of sandals that barely fit him. He left and headed from the farmhouse and towards the city.
There was still chaos there. Fires were mostly contained but some still raged with bucketmen trying to douse the neighboring structures to keep them from catching. He could see the tail end of destruction that exited the city. A few houses were reduced to rubble, a couple around were burned but seemed to be contained. Shane inched his way through the city, heading towards the docks, he thought maybe the ship was there and he could get his things...but the deeper he made it into the city the more he realized that the odds the ship was intact was lower. When he came to the port he saw what was left of the ship, its mast stuck out of the water and a few chunks of hull that clung tightly to the stonework where they were lodged onto the docks themselves.
The damage there was extensive, claw marks, and blood stains that must have been bodies at one point. The sight made him sick to even look at. A guard with two pails pushed past him and wanted to question who he was, but had more important things to do and went on his way just as quickly as he had come. Shane pulled his cowl up and headed off into a side street.
Shane moved out towards the edge of the city again and found what appeared to be a triage station for the injured. His eyes went wide when he saw the dozens of hurt people, and then the rows of sheet-covered dead. He prayed that there had not been wounded by him, he prayed that these were all people hurt by debris. He moved closer, language was a barrier but he had a little knowledge and eventually found someone who he could talk to in a language they both shared. Shane pretended to have medical knowledge and the basic first aid he had learned in his military training proved to be enough to fool them.
He slid from bed to bed, and then when he ran out of beds to check he walked down the rows of soiled bedrolls and their occupants. Some were sleeping and others writhed in pain only just covered by the limited medicinal herbs. He continued to walk from bedroll to bedroll until he felt a pull in his chest, like something was tugging him by the front of his shirt, he weaved between bedrolls, drawn by the unseen hand, until he came to a young woman with a nasty wound to her torso, it was wide and uniform, a claw wound. His heartbeat was racing by the time he came to her side and was kneeling next to her.
He reached out to touch her and flashes of images stabbed him in the head. Each one a vision of armies of werewolves pouring over the port city, then more tearing through the countryside. Then the final one lingered in front of his eyes. A wolf that he recognized as himself. A pink glowing crown of light over its head, eyes nearly aflame with the same pink glow. He was clad in black armor that had glowing runes etched across its surface.
He clutched his head and could feel the moisture of tears on his hand. He looked down to her again and saw a scratch on her arm, something superficial slowly close. His eyes went wide, was this what he was bringing to this land, was this the curse he was bringing. He winced, and clutched his head again as more painful flashes came to his mind. He leaned over her and wept, his hand over her nose and mouth and his forearm over her throat. Her wounds were bad enough that her gentle struggle against his pressure went unnoticed as people looked away from the hooded man seemingly weeping over a corpse.
He felt her breathing stop and he wept harder, less for her loss and more for the fact that she was not so far along that she would shift at death. He laid there for a moment, offering prayers to the Six for their mercy on the foriegn woman. He felt that they did not hear him. He no longer felt the tug and felt safe that she was the only one.
He eventually left, supplied with the kindness of others who saw a poor man covered in blood and thought he was just another victim, not the cause of this destruction. He left the city before the sun fell. He kept going ,heading further west. He felt he could just walk until he got to the very edge of the settled world, until there were no more people to encounter just the vast endless nature.