A few days after his last hunt Azrael found himself back in the forest. Last night the spear group had been out hunting, when they’d come across the mauled carcass of a doe. A dead animal in itself was nothing special, but they’d reported that other than its throat being savagely ripped out it had been left untouched. The doe hadn’t been killed for food. It had been hunted for fun. Azrael knew that cases like this could occur and he also knew that killers that hunted for fun were dangerous. The thrill of hunting an unsuspecting prey, watching it shiver in helplessness, while it knew that its death was… He physically snarled and pushed down the dark beast that threatened to rise up from inside of him. The insidious creature already smelt the blood of the hunt. It would be wrong to claim that these cases were getting worse, but the dark force inside of him was definitely getting restless. It craved the thrill of adventure and the feel of the hunt. He couldn’t blame it really, even he was feeling pretty cooped up from winter, but literally having something pace inside of him like a cage beast was… irritating, to put it mildly. Unclenching his fingers from the hilt of his daggers, he grabbed his spear and set off to the site of the slaughter.
Once there he kept his distance. Despite the cold weather flies crawled over the you doe’s sightless eyes. Azrael looked down at the young creature. It had been mauled to death, its neck almost entirely missing. Blood pooled out of the gaping wound, coating the ground in viscous red. The only other mark on it was a long scratch along its front flank. Everything spoke of a short and one-sided battle.
Ignoring the dead creature he began walking around the clearing, looking for other clues. Here and there pawprints sank into the muddy ground. The snowmelt creating a slushy mess. His task was not aided by the boot prints of the other hunters. He would have to talk to them about that. Luckily for him though he found a set of paw prints leading away from the kill site. But they were big, or bigger, than any prints that he’d found. They were undoubtedly wolf prints, but that just puzzled him even further. Wolves were typically known for not hunting for sport. They were efficient creatures. Pack creatures too. This one was alone. Things were just getting weirder, but after following the tracks north for another hour he thought he might have a clue.
Another half hour later and Azrael found himself in front of a cave, further north than he’d ever been. Technically it wasn’t a cave, but a jumble of rocks that leant against each other like giant building blocks to form a shelter from the elements.
Bending to get a better look inside he froze when he heard a low growl behind him. Slowly straightening he turned around and raised his spear. Opposite him, maybe four meters away, was an inky black shadow. Azrael unconsciously gulped as he regarded the shadow wolf opposite him. It was one mean looking wolf. Unceremoniously big the creature was nearly two meters long and easily came up to his waist. In terms of weight it easily outclassed him. All he needed was a red cloak and a basket, cause that was truly a big bad wolf. In the background Azrael felt [Calm Mind] activate and he fell into the now familiar breathing pattern for [Meditation]. Placing [Reinforcement] on his spear he briefly considered dropping into [Stealth], but dismissed it. He’d noticed that it became noticeably harder to actually hide when somebody was already looking at you and knew where you were. Neither of them moved and out of curiosity Azrael activated [Lord’s Insight]. To his surprise a blue panel actually appeared.
Alpha Shadow Wolf (Exiled)
He noticed the distinct lack of class or level description, but didn’t have much of a chance to think about anything, before the Alpha used his distraction to launch its first attack. It sprung straight towards him, aiming at his throat, but Azrael managed to dive under it. The creature’s jaws snapped at empty air and it skittered across the stones behind him as it landed. Meanwhile he righted himself, immediately turning to face the beast as it dived at him once more. One claw raked through his torso, cutting deep. A few blows later and Azrael’s shirt and winter vest almost hung in rags, blood soaking them deep red. The Alpha hadn’t fared much better. Its side was punctured in a dozen places and its blood dripped onto the floor.
Stepping to is right Azrael thrust his spear forward, aiming for its face. The exiled alpha leapt away, clearly favouring its left leg. The appendage in question was a mangled mess of bones that had healed wrong.
Earlier when he’d been tracking it he’d noticed an irregularity in its gait, as if it was injured. Seeing the creature up close simply confirmed his hypothesis and it also explained why it had been exiled. Only the strong survived afterall. But it didn’t explain the sport hunting.
Caught in thought he failed to notice the creature pounce at him. It bowled him over, using its superior weight to keep him pinned down. He shoved his spear shaft into the creature’s mouth, gripping it one either end. He noticed that the underside of the wolf sported a large, inflamed gash that oozed with puss, rot and infection. It seemed that the beast had been in a bad fight and as a consewas in constant pain and had decided to take it out on the world.
Azrael looked into the eyes of the alpha and for a brief moment they looked at each other, fighting for dominance. Azrael had a distinct feeling of déjà vu. However, this time he had something on his side that he didn’t when he fought the first shadow wolf in this game. He had magic.
Dropping the spear with his left hand, he slapped the palm against the ground, using [Earth Shaping] to summon a sharp spike of earth from the ground. It lanced up, stabbing deep into the beast’s side. At the same time the [Reinforcement] on the spear weakened, as his concentration wavered. The spear snapped into two under the strain raining wooden splinters down on him. He summoned a second earth spike, puncturing the beast again and it retreated. Expecting it to attack he drew his daggers, prepared to fight at close quarters, but instead the alpha ran into the dark shadows of its small cave. Prepared to press to his advantage Azrael gave pursuit. When he arrived, however, the cave was empty.
The beast inside of him noticed before Azrael did. Casting [Reinforcement] on both daggers Azrael spun around to face the alpha that suddenly appeared from his shadow. The wolf snarled as he blocked it. The beast behind Azrael’s eyes snarled back. With its advantage gone it ran into the forest, with its uneven gait. Azrael, his eyes wide from the thrill of the hunt gave chase. He sported a Cheshire grin.
Infront of him the alpha shadow wolf dove in and out of shadows, trying to throw him of, but Azrael didn’t care. This was what he was missing! This was where he belonged! The infinite excitement and adrenaline that made the world seem incredibly… [Calm Mind] worked in overdrive, and Azrael picked up the breathing pattern for [Meditation] that he hadn’t even noticed he’d dropped. The beast unwillingly retreated. Here was the hunt, the blood the thrill. Azrael quashed it.
The wolf was bleeding, but so was he. Worse, without his winter jacket, the cold was getting to him. At this rate they were both going to die here. He thought while chasing the wolf. If he knew where it would appear he could trap it, but the movements seemed completely at random. Other than the fact that when it entered a shadow it appeared from a shadow moments later nothing seemed to be the same. If only he knew where… no, if only it didn’t know where he was. Azrael dropped into [Stealth] and realised that there was a slow change. Where previously the alpha jumped as far away as possible from him, the distance between shadow jumps became shorter, while it spent more time running between the trees. Eventually though it stopped and looked back, waiting and expecting him to appear. When he didn’t it slowly back tracked to the place he’d entered [Stealth]. It sniffed the area and noticed him too late. Azrael dropped down from the tree branch and onto its back, plunging his daggers between the vertebrae of its neck. It struggled, eventually managing to throw him off. Both daggers stayed stuck in its neck. It thrashed towards him, its jaw snapping. He thrust one hand towards it, while the other slapped the ground. Spike after stone spike slammed upwards, impaling it, while a fireball detonated at point blank range in its face. He only stopped when he was sure that it was dead. By then it was a bloody and charred pincushion. The smell of iron, charred meat and burning hair hung thick in the air. Despite himself Azrael couldn’t help but retch a little. Eventually though he pulled out his daggers and began the trek home. He couldn’t be bothered to collect the remains of his spear and the wolf corpse was too mangled to even salvage. Even if it had been he wasn’t sure he wanted anything of it, after seeing the infection.