Del and Huck — On the Wings of Grace (Chapter 16)

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A harrowing fantasy adventure in 1920s Oklahoma.

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

The Curse of the Moons

It had been hiding in the grass in front of them. Jobe had either heard it, or smelled, or sensed it somehow, but not before they had gotten close enough to it for it to attack quickly. The werewolf leaped out of the grass and pulled Jobe off his horse. The orc grunted and went to the ground with the creature.

Flavian ran towards them, throwing knives at the struggling pair. One knife struck the werewolf in its back, the second in its shoulder. The werewolf did not flinch as it tore and bit at Jobe, who had lost his axe, and now punched the creature and bit back.

Del knew they couldn't shoot at the beast without possibly hitting Jobe.  She saw Huck dropping his rifle and pulling the knife Ivaile had given him out of his saddle. 

"Huck?" Del cried out. 

By now Flavian was behind the werewolf, stabbing into its back, and he must have gotten its attention, as it turned from Jobe and now jumped on the halfling. Jobe shouted something in orcish, letting out more noise than Del and Huck had yet witnessed from the orc, as the werewolf bit into the halfling's arm. Jobe, the largest one of them, was perhaps half the size of their attacker. He climbed on the beast's back and wrapped his arms around the thing's neck, trying to suffocate it, but it did not seem to notice. It continued biting and tearing at Flavian, who seemed so small beneath the beast.

With Del calling his name the whole time, Huck advanced on the battle and quickly plunged the silver knife into the beast's back.  The creature froze instantly, gasped, and then let out a long howl. Then it collapsed, dead.

"Flavian!" Jobe pleaded as he knocked the dead creature aside and rescued the halfling. Flavian was a bloody mess, but still alive. Flavian did not move and said nothing, but his eyes were open and crazed. The halfling was covered in blood from his wounds, and his right arm was a wreck of torn flesh. 

"Huck!" Del cried out again, even though the battle was over.

"It's okay, Del, stay there," Huck told her. He looked down at Flavian, who was shivering in the grass. 

But the halfling would still not say anything, not even wail in pain. He just lay there, bleeding, as Jobe tore fabric and bandaged Flavian's wounds. The arm was nearly destroyed, and bleeding profusely. The orc tied a tourniquet just below the halfling's shoulder, hoping it would stop the bleeding. 

Finally, Flavian spoke. "Water," he gasped.

Jobe looked at Huck, and Huck ran to his horse for his canteen and then ran back. Del continued to watch, helpless.  Huck poured a little of the water into Flavian's mouth. Flavian swallowed, coughed, swallowed again, and then turned his head away from the canteen, finished.

The halfling darted his look all over the place, the pain too great for him to really see anything. He continued to shiver and convulse as Jobe held him down to the ground. There was nothing more they could do.

But slowly, Flavian's breathing quieted and his movements became less frequent, until he lost consciousness entirely.

Del looked to Jobe, who looked back. The orc's eyes appeared a bit frightened, which was a shocking thing to see.

"Is he dead?" Del asked from her vantage point.

"No," Huck said, listening to Flavian's labored breath. "He just blacked out."

"Is he gonna die?" Del continued.

"I don't know, Del," Huck told her. 

She was quiet after that.

Huck turned to Jobe. The orc had let go of the halfling, and now clutched the crucifix around his neck. "What do we do?" Huck asked.

Jobe spoke in a deep, gnarled voice. "He going to die. Or worse."

"Or worse?" Huck asked.

"Werewolf venom in his blood now."

"And what about you?" Huck wondered, eyeing the orc's own wounds.

"Orcs immune," Jobe explained, terse.

"Is there anything we can do?"

"Kill him. Not let him suffer."

"We're not going to do that!" Huck argued.

"Best for him. Best for us."

"I won't allow it," Huck said, resolute. "How could you be so cold? I thought he was your friend?"

Jobe stood, looking down at the wounded Flavian. "He Jobe's best friend. He Jobe's only friend."

"Then we're not going to fucking kill him," said Huck.

"He will turn," Jobe said.

"How soon?"

"Days, if he not die. He be danger to us."

"We'll take him along," said Huck.

"He slow us down," said Jobe.

"I don't care," said Huck.

"Then you carry him!" Jobe growled. The orc turned away and went to his horse. He mounted it, and then started riding.

"Goddammit," cursed Huck. He bent and lifted Flavian, who was lighter than he had expected, and carried him to his own horse. "Del!" he commanded. "Tie his pony to your saddle. Lead it along."

"Okay, Huck," she said. She was crying now. She had never seen anything so horrible. She did as Huck said as Huck climbed his own horse while he carried the halfling in his other arm. He held Flavian close. 

And then they followed Jobe west.


Jobe might have been unwilling to take the halfling, but he did slow his horse so that Del and Huck could keep up with him.. In a way, it was obvious that Jobe was deeply hurt by what had happened to Flavian. But on the other hand -- Del considered maybe Jobe knew more about the situation than he himself did.

Each minute was an eternity for a while. Del rode to Huck's left side, her eyes watching the unconscious halfling. She said nothing, but every so often would wipe a tear from her eyes. 

Soon though time began to pass more rapidly. The sun traveled across the sky and the light grew dim. Jobe stopped his horse and dismounted. When they came up to him, he told them it was time to camp.

Huck asked Jobe about whether there would be other werewolves around.

"Doubtful," said the orc. "They solitary. Alone for many mile."

Huck nodded and lowered Flavian onto the ground and then dismounted himself. The three of them prepared camp, and Huck started cooking up some meat, though none of them appeared hungry.

They ate, Flavian remaining unconscious. But as night fell, a new terror struck Del as she watched as not one but two moons rose into the sky: one red, one gold.

Jobe, noticing their shock, said: "Iska."

So it was true. They were on the other world. They had been harried enough, but this new knowledge just settled more weight on their shoulders. 

They went to sleep, Huck lying next to Flavian. Jobe kept first watch.

A few hours later Flavian awoke, gasping, waking Huck and Del up with him. The halfling turned to Huck with his wild eyes and cursed. "You bastard. Why can't you let me die?"

"That's not my way," said Huck.

"You know what's going to happen to me now? I should just slit my own throat."

"I don't think you have the strength for that. And I don't have the strength to do it for you."

Flavian cursed again in his weak voice. "Fuckers. Not even Jobe has the courage I need."

"I...did something like that once before," said Huck.

"What?"

"Helped someone die."

"You mean you killed them when you knew they were done for?"

"Yes," admitted Huck. "I told myself I would never do it again."

"Why?"

"I let the hope die in me once. I told myself I would never let it do so again."

"You're a goddamn fool."

Jobe watched them without saying anything.

"Could you get me more water?" Flavian asked.

"Yes."

Huck helped the halfling drink. Afterwards, Flavian coughed and sighed. "I can fucking feel it, that goddamn wolf in me now."

"How long will it take?" Huck asked.

"How the hell should I know? Goddamn my arm hurts. I can tell you've never known pain like this, or you would bash my head in with a rock."

"I don't care what you say," said Huck. "I'm not going to kill you."

"When I turn, I could kill you. Without thinking. And Del too."

"I won't let that happen."

"You still got that silver knife?"

"Yeah."

"Better keep it close."

Flavian sighed again and stared up at the moons. "They got a hold on me now. The moons. They control the wolf. They're not full. But they will be."

"Then we will wait until then," said Huck.

"It'll be two nights from now. Then what will you do?"

"I don't know," said Huck.

Del shivered herself to sleep.  

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