Induced Lunacy - Ch. 01

by rei39
54 minutes
Induced Lunacy - Ch. 01

1

The Werewolf


In the darkest reaches of the woods, a dim yellow light softly painted the snowy surface. A young, drow woman buried herself deeper into her soft, red velvet cloak as she trudged through the snow, a gloved hand clutching a small, iron lantern. The dense forest refused the full moon's light above, the world dark and eerily still save for the echoing crunch of snow under her brown, leather boots. Beneath her she hurriedly followed a set of paw prints, intent on chasing down this beast.

For two weeks, she stayed as a guest in a village named Gil that claimed to be terrorized by a werewolf. She introduced herself as Riela, a simple sellmage, when she first arrived, only asking for shelter from the cold. In exchange, she gave them magical assistance, but soon her status as a court mage was discovered and they begged her for help against the werewolf. 

“You must understand,” one of the locals pleaded. “We have no means to defend ourselves against such a creature. Please help us!”

The villagers were simple kinfolk, largely wolfkin, who lived at the farthest edges of the queen's territories and so their pleas for help unfortunately slipped through the cracks. For years, livestock diminished at the hands of the werewolf, but strangely enough there was never a kin death. Even stranger, the slaughtered cattle were usually the sick or elderly. Even with this, the village was still gripped by fear and they begged her for a solution. She was hesitant at first since she was retiring, and it’s been some time since she’s encountered such a seemingly dangerous mission, but she couldn’t help but sympathize with the villagers.

She interviewed the witnesses while writing down their accounts and other notes in her journal. The villagers could only describe the creature as very large, almost as large as a stable, and that it was always too dark to fully see, and that it moved too fast for them to make out any further details. One witness claimed it had piercing, light blue eyes but it also had sweeping horns, which puzzled her, but she made note of the strange detail.

When Riela suggested that the werewolf could be someone among them due to the strange circumstances surrounding its victims, the villagers grew quiet. It was just as they feared, but she told them not to start pointing fingers at each other just yet. 

“It could also be someone living within the vicinity of your village, like the woods,” she said as a possibility. 

“Oh no, that would be very unwise of them,” one of the villagers claimed. “There’s a group of mages out there.”

“Mages?”

“Yes… For years they’ve been doing all sorts of experiments on the wildlife there. We can’t hunt them either, it’s all bad meat, and anyone trying to live within the forest would have been caught and turned into one of their abominations.”

“I see…” Riela rubbed her chin with her index finger. “And I’m guessing they’ve threatened you before, which is why it was never reported.”

The old villager solemnly nodded. 

“I’ll get to the bottom of this. Do any of you know where these mages may have taken residence?”

“I do,” a voice spoke up from the crowd. “They live up in that old watchtower southeast from here, but how would that solve our werewolf problem?”

“I can take on both cases at once,” Riela reassured. “And maybe there is some sort of correlation between the two, but whatever it is, I will ensure your safety as one of the queen’s court mages.”

The villagers sighed with relief. She continued interviewing the rest of the villagers that day. Most of them were elderly, and wouldn’t necessarily fit the profile of being as active as the werewolf was described, but she still kept her wits about. The crowd slowly dispersed as she excused everyone she spoke with, and then she was finally left with a very shy and nervous wolfkin named Khadi.

They talked to each other while she drew up a route to the mage’s tower in her journal. She learned that he was a laborer for the mill, and that he allegedly, like the rest of the village, wouldn’t dare venture out at night during the full moons. During an awkward silence he ended up staring at her, admiring her soft, full lips and round, lilac face. She tucked a tuft of silky, black hair behind her pointed ears.

“If it’s okay to ask,” he nervously began. “What brings you to our village?”

“Ah, I was simply passing through,” she said. “I was actually on my way to visit my family’s house. They live outside of Eribus, you see, but I wanted to see the sights around Gil before meeting them.”

“Oh,” he said quietly and turned to look at her. “But you’re by yourself?”

She looked up from her journal and smiled. “Worried about someone like me?”

His wolf ears flattened and his eyes shifted about. “I- uh-well,” he stammered out. 

She let out a soft, fluttering giggle that made his ears perk up again. “Don’t worry, you aren’t the first.”

He couldn’t maintain eye contact with her soft, orange eyes and looked away. She couldn’t help but eye him a little herself while he remained facing away from her; he was a very average-looking wolfkin— brown-furred, yellow-eyed, sort of above-average height and broad-shouldered. He wore a plain, pale green tunic and matching trousers that stopped above his ankles, and he wore a straw hat with holes for his ears. He definitely looked like someone who did a lot of heavy lifting, but he was still endearingly soft in the midsection. She went back to her journal with a smile on her face, pleased with what she saw.

“Oh, and,” she began without looking away from her journal. “Don’t go thinking about helping me visit the mage’s tower, I wouldn’t want to put any of you in danger.”

“Oh! I- uh,” he stuttered out again. “No, I wasn’t thinking of that- I mean, you’ve made it this far on your own, I wouldn’t want to think—”

Her fluttering giggle made him pause. 

“Never mind.”

He eventually excused himself out of sheer embarrassment, hiding his face with his straw hat which only further amused her. One of the elder wolfkins, a stout, pale amber-furred woman named Riza, came over to talk to Riela, tutting at Khadi as he walked away with his tail tucked between his legs. 

“Pah! And here I thought some hard labor would do him some good. Boy’s been like that ever since we found him.”

“Found him?” Riela looked up from her journal and arched an eyebrow.

“Yep, found him right over there,” she pointed at a clearing with her smoking pipe. “Collapsed in the pasture about a year ago. Could barely remember his own name!”

Riela made a face that made Riza slowly raise a brow as high as her muzzle allowed it. The elder took a drag from her pipe and looked away. 

“You think he’s the werewolf?” she said with a scoff. “Peh, the werewolf’s been around longer than him. Wouldn’t make sense.”

“Well… everyone’s story is relatively the same,” Riela sighed out. “But, you know… why not tell me more about him.”

“Hrmm. Not much to say,” she said. “We found Khadi there— stark naked!— about a year ago, three years after the werewolf started killin’ our older cattle. Says he doesn’t remember much about where he’s from or how he ended up here, but since he ain’t causing any trouble and he’s done good for the mill we leave him alone.”

“I see...”

“So what’re you plannin’ on doing, then, if it’s one of us?”

“There's still some time until the next full moon,” Riela said. “So until then there’s not much I can do except wait. Lycanthropy is curable, and since they seem strong-willed enough to recognize what they’re doing, I could possibly reason with them, but it’s up to you and the villagers with what you may want to do with them.”

“I see,” the elder took another drag from her pipe. “Well then, I’ll leave you to your writin’.”

By nightfall, she retreated to her room at the village’s inn, deflating into a wooden chair next to her bed. She let out an exhausted sigh, kicking off her boots and rubbing her knees. She was going to need ingredients for wolfsbane, and thankfully the concoction wasn’t too complex, but there weren’t any markets or apothecaries within the village; they were simple farmers and common folk getting by. 

She already started planning out the next morning, and how she was going to retrieve ingredients from the previous town she passed, but then she shook her head, letting out another exhausted sigh. She’d eventually get to it, but right now she needed to unwind. She slipped her boots back on and then headed down the creaky wooden stairs.

The innkeeper, a husky gray woflkin in a white tunic and brown pants, greeted her and set down a glass for her at the island counter. She greeted him back and sat down on one of the rickety stools, ordering herself a pint of glass-berry wine. She looked around her and saw that the entire inn— a small, quaint, cluttered place with only three rooms save for the attic room, propped up by a stone foundation— was empty save for a youthful brunette wolfkin and gray lizardkin adventurer sitting next to the fireplace, chatting away over some brandy.

“Not much local business tonight, huh?” Riela inquired.

He grunted in acknowledgment. “No one likes the dark ‘round here anymore. Lucky enough to get travelers still comin’ through.”

There was not much else talk from him besides a few grunts and nods as she chatted him up. She sipped her wine as he walked away, eavesdropping on the two travelers, but after a while she paid mind to her own business and ordered some freshly-cooked mutton and braided bread. She ate, poised, in silence, but then the innkeeper spoke up again to chat about what it was like in the city. Her eyes flashed with excitement as she wonderfully captured the essence of the queen’s city in her words. He smirked and let out a huff of amusement, but said nothing back as he washed the glass mugs left by the travelers. She finally finished her supper and went to bed, sleeping dreamlessly.

The next morning, she immediately got dressed and went downstairs to inform the innkeeper she’ll be gone for a day. He grunted in acknowledgment without turning around, too focused on shining the silver plate up in the light from the window.

As she made her way to the town she previously crossed, she ran into a familiar figure along the road: Khadi. He didn’t sense her presence at first, but he finally turned around when he heard footsteps behind him. His heart skipped a beat as her soft voice greeted him, turning to sheepishly smile at her. She finally caught up with him and smiled back. 

“Are you headed the same way?’

“To Klin? Yeah. I, uh, have an errand to run for one of the elders,” he held up a small piece of paper, but she couldn’t make out the handwriting. “Need to get a few things for him.”

“Ooh, I see.”

They ended up conversing with each other throughout their long walk through the valleys, stopping here and there to gaze at the snow-covered sights of stone runes and peculiar trees. He was shy at first, but eventually he warmed up to her, telling her a few jokes he knew that made her let out that soft, pleasant giggle of hers. He also showed her his favorite vantage point that displayed the imposing mountains of Yial, but it also brought a clear view of Klin. Eventually they both grew silent, but they kept close to each other as they trekked down the long, winding road.

By dusk, they finally reached the archway of the heavily-decorated entrance of the tightly-knit town, which was large and still bustling with a wide array of busy kin; twin elves    displayed bouquets of boldly-colored flowers, a minotaur bard beautifully played his lute for coin in front of a general goods shop, and a wide variety of vendors shouted out their slogans and displayed their wares along the snowy, cobblestone streets. Khadi and Riela waved at each other as they went their separate ways, and after asking around she finally found a small apothecary tucked away in an alley. 

She opened the green, ornately carved wooden door and was greeted with a bell chime and a warm, pungent perfume from the cluttered shop. Along the shelves were carefully labeled jars of ingredients ranging from moth wings to cluster-crab pearls, and displayed out on the front counter were green herbs, pale salves and filled flasks of all colors. An old, graying lizardkin witch in a richly-colored green and gold robe greeted her while tending to her boiling cauldron, sprinkling in dried bay leaves and a dark, orange powder, possibly turmeric, into the brown concoction.

“Hello, I’m here for these ingredients,” Riela said as she pulled up her journal to tap at a page.

The old lizardkin scanned the journal and without looking up she said, “Wolfsbane, eh?”

“Mm, a small village named Gil has a strange werewolf problem.”

“Strange, you say?”

“Yes. Seems as if the werewolf is highly aware of the village’s inhabitants. It never struck anyone living there, and only went after the sick or elderly cattle.”

“I see, I see,” the lizardkin said as she started taking jars off of the shelves behind her, tail swishing about lazily. “I’ve heard rumors about there being a werewolf there, but didn’t know much else.”

Riela hummed and tapped her fingers along the counter as the witch pulled out a salve of salamander’s tail from a small drawer, fresh herbs from the low ceiling, and then a tube of silver worm’s blood from another drawer.

“Judging by that, d’you suppose it’s one of the villagers there?”

“As far as I know, it could be,” Riela said as she pulled out some coin. “But I’m hesitant to make any conclusions yet since I still need to investigate their mage problem. I have a feeling they’re related somehow.”

“I see, I see. Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate,” the witch said back as she firmly placed down a large, glass jar of myrrh, then started scooping out small teaspoons of it into a tiny bottle. “You prefer I make it for a small fee?”

“No, thank you,” Riela said while waving a hand. “But, may I borrow your lab?”

“Of course,” the witch said as she closed the bottle with a blue cork. “But it’ll cost ya.”

Riela hummed irritably, pulling out more coin and counting them. “How much?”

“Oh, just 5 quil, but if you make a mess it’ll be 45.” 

Relief washed over her. After paying for her ingredients, she made her way to the small table in the farthest corner of the shop and went to work. She slipped off her leather gloves to reveal delicate, slender hands with finely cut nails, and her movements were just as graceful as she expertly mixed everything together with a mortar and pestle. She placed them into a glass vial over a green flame, and then after casting a small spell she waited as it boiled. 

She chatted with the shop owner to pass time, learning about what she was making (a bitter healing tonic) and a little history about herself, and in return Riela told her about her status as a court mage and how she was retiring soon to live a peaceful life as a sellmage within the confines of the queen’s main city. The shop owner was surprised about her status since she looked like any ordinary traveler, and Riela waved a hand at her saying she doesn’t need to wear those stuffy robes at all hours. The shop owner went over to the front of the shop and placed her closed sign on the door before locking it.

Finally, the wolfsbane potion turned a silvery blue and thickened as the flame dissipated. Riela waited for it to cool down before pouring it into a small, clear vial, and then corked it and placed it into a pouch on the leather belt around her waist. She cleaned up after herself and then thanked the shop owner as she opened the door. She made her way out onto the lit streets, huddling herself up into her cloak as the cold, winter air slithered around her. She was ready to find the nearest inn, but then she paused, looking all around her. She wondered where Khadi might’ve run off to, and was hoping she would run into him again, but the cold beckoned her to find shelter. She finally found the town’s inn and rented a room for the night.

After a hearty meal and luxurious bath downstairs, she plopped down onto the lush, warm bed of her room and curled up under the covers, taking in the highly-decorated sights of the bright, white room with red trimmings. She admired a painting of the blue mountain range of Yial on the wall next to the ornate armoire, sighing as she reminisced over the trek through the pass from her earlier days. She turned to her side and thought about Khadi again and furrowed her brow. She slipped out of bed and parted the curtains covering the window as if hoping she'd catch sight of his straw hat, but all she saw was a young, lithe drow man delivering ice in a wheel cart to a stout orc woman in a blood-stained apron. 

She sighed and wondered to herself why he was on her mind so much, but she knew why: he was cute. She closed the curtains and twirled around, plopping herself back onto the bed. She smiled, then reached over to blow out the light of the lantern illuminating the room on the bedside table, and then tucked an arm underneath a pillow as she drifted off to sleep. She slept soundly, dreaming things that she soon forgot as she woke up the next morning.

She yawned and stretched, covering her mouth with a fluttering hand. She slumped over but then perked up. She realized Khadi might be staying in the same inn as her, and she excitedly pulled the covers off of her to get dressed into her day clothes. She made her way down the heavily-decorated hallway and before she entered the dining hall she was greeted with warm, fragrant smells of beer and bacon. Her stomach rumbled loudly as she finally entered the clean dining hall and ordered herself a large breakfast. She seated herself somewhere in the center of the sleepy yet bustling room next to one of the support columns, looking around her while she waited. 

She took in the sights of the quartz walls decorated with all kinds of woven art and game trophies, and also saw brown shelves lined with finely-aged wines and kegs. She then watched as the small, dwarf bartender— a balding man wearing a green apron— climbed a stool to reach one of them, pouring golden liquid into a large mug. She drummed her fingers along the table, hoping to see if Khadi might be around, focusing on each wolfkin seated in the room, but she didn’t see him nor his straw hat. She frowned and sloped her shoulders, but then perked up again as her breakfast was finally served. She ate while reading the town’s newspaper, raising her brow at the local gossip. After finishing her breakfast, she returned to her room and put away her belongings in her knapsack, but then another thought crossed her. She went downstairs and asked the innkeeper if a Khadi had stayed at the inn, but she shook her head. Riela pouted a little, but then moved on.

When she stepped outside of the inn, she noticed that it had snowed again. She looked around the streets to see any sign of Khadi, but again, she didn’t see him. She thought she saw him while peering into the window of a bookstore, but they were in clothes too rich for a peasant. She sighed and then shrugged, thinking he may still be running errands or that he already returned to Gil, and so she trekked back to the village alone. 

She smoothed a hand over her pouch housing the wolfsbane and sighed, pulling it out to stare at it in the white sunlight. Even if the werewolf seemed highly aware of its surroundings, she thought, they were still known to be largely unpredictable. Powdery snowflakes began to fall from the sky onto her outstretched hand, and so she hurried her pace back to the village. 

As she approached the village, she was greeted by the elder smoking a pipe. Riela greeted her back, but then she asked if she had seen Khadi return.

“Khadi? Haven’t seen him yet,” she said. “Said he needed to run an errand in Klin yesterday.”

“I just got back from there,” Riela said. “Are you sure you haven’t seen him?”

“I been smokin’ all morning over here and saw no one.”

“Ah, I see...”

Dejected, she went and huddled herself inside the village’s inn to escape the compounding snow. She looked out of the window of the attic room and pouted, disappointed that her plans to investigate the watchtower needed to be pushed back to tomorrow. She kept herself busy for the rest of the day by burying herself into her journal at the small desk in her room, writing down the current events and what she saw while in Klin. 

She took a break from writing to lie down in bed and read one of the novels from her knapsack. After reaching the fifth chapter, she ended up dozing off with the book falling flat on her face. She eventually woke up in a hurry, and looked over to see it was dusk, and that the snow had stopped. Her stomach grumbled and so she went downstairs to sate her appetite.

There, she finally saw the distinct figure of Khadi sitting at the island counter talking to the innkeeper. His ears perked up as he heard her approach, and she smiled and lightly waved at him before sitting down next to him. She ordered herself some glass-berry wine, and savored the overly sweet taste of the clear liquid that hit her tongue. She put down her glass to look over at him. 

“How was Klin?” she asked.

“I always find something new there,” he said excitedly, pressing his hands onto the edge of the counter. “But… it’s too busy. I like the quiet here.”

“Hmm, you’d hate it at Evergleam,” she said with a laugh. 

“Is that where you’re from?” he asked inquisitively. 

“Oh no, my blood isn’t that rich,” she said, waving a dismissal hand. “I’m actually from outside of Eribus. Kvannu.”

“Like where your family lives?”

“Mhmm. I moved to Eribus to become a mage, you see.”

His ears flattened and raised with uncertainty when there was silence between them, but eventually with enough drinks he started chatting her up more, learning more about her; she was around 246 years old and had served the queen’s court for about 15 of them after growing weary of her family’s merchantry. In turn she learned more about him, which wasn’t much; his amnesia was terrible, and he still hadn’t found a cure for it, but he claimed that he didn’t mind since he’s fine with the new life he’s made for himself in Gil.

She sat closer to him as they both now had one too many drinks in them, and she was smiling and obviously flirting with him. She’d giggle and twirl a tuft of her hair as he went into detail about his errands in Klin. He paused and looked into her eyes, then looked away as she smiled serenely. The innkeeper had his back turned to them the whole time, and she took that opportunity to smooth a hand across his thigh. He flinched at her invitation and could barely hide the smile that crept across his face as he obscured it with his beer stein. They both looked at each other knowingly, then paid their tabs and left the inn.

His home was warm and cozy despite the fireplace not running, but it was well-lit with lanterns placed on the shelves near the windows. The walls were well-decorated with all kinds of colorful weaved art, and the floors were covered in lush, handmade rugs. He closed the door and then finally they closed the space between them. Her face flushed as she felt his strong arms, letting his just-as-strong hands explore her wide hips. She kissed his collarbones and he nuzzled her neck, breathing in her scent while removing her cloak to reveal her voluptuous figure. She giggled at the cold snout pressed against her neck, then she put her soft hands on his muzzle and kissed him. He hummed pleasantly and then led her to his bedroom where she kicked off her boots as they both fell onto the bed.

She was on top of him, grinding against his clothed groin, getting the bed to creak under their combined weight. She undid the small bun in her hair, letting her silky black hair fall in front of her like a waterfall. He undulated back against her, letting out a guttural moan as they both grew hot and heavy. She moaned and panted as the hot friction further flushed her face, and he ran his hand across her shapely backside accentuated by the leather pants she wore. She reached down to kiss him again and she squealed delightfully as he firmly squeezed her ass. She then leaned back while pressing a hand against his chest, grinding against his clothed cock with her own clothed, warm, wet, tingling pussy. She moaned and grabbed one of her large breasts as she continued, biting her lower lip as she tweaked a nipple through the thick, white knit top.

He grew hotter, and she undid his loose, green tunic to reveal his furry chest, smoothing her hand up to his mane then further up to caress his muzzle. He exhaled shakily, breathing in her aromatic scent, turning his head to the side as she then bounced against his cock, the friction further pronouncing the growing bulge. He watched her large breasts pleasantly bounce along with her, and he hummed in his throat again. Warmth ebbed throughout her body as the sound of the creaking bed further turned her on, and with every contact of his bulge she grew hotter and more wet with desire. She stopped as he started to breathe more pronounced, circling a finger across his chest as she giggled and he smiled. 

She was just about to remove her knit top when she noticed his expression had changed and he was going soft.

“Oh… Are you nervous?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Is this your first time?”

“... Not that I can remember.”

She hummed lowly. “Do you want to keep going?”

There was a long pause from him. His ears flattened and his brow creased. 

“No… sorry.”

“Don’t be, it’s okay.”

The alcohol was getting to her and she frowned, but she climbed off of him then laid by his side. She kissed his muzzle but his mind seemed to be elsewhere. He let out a deep sigh. He looked at her as if he were about to say something, and he reached out to her face with his right hand, but as one trimmed claw grazed her cheek he sheepishly pulled away. He looked away and changed the subject when she tried to ask what was wrong.

“I’m sorry. I... I can take you back to the inn.”

“I’m fine, I’m not that drunk.”

“Are you sure?”

She smiled and rubbed his muzzle.

“You’re so concerned for me, it’s cute.”

He smiled, but then his ears flattened again. He frowned and looked away. Obviously there was something on his mind, but she didn’t press any further. Instead she patted his chest as she sat up, and then she smiled. She tied her hair back up into a bun, and told him without looking at him, “If you want to try again, you know where to find me.”

He nodded, turning onto his side but then sat up and got out of bed. He helped find her boots and kept leaving lingering touches on her, and she knew he wanted what she wanted, but they both separated. She still tried to entice him, however, swaying her hips as she walked away in hopes that it would change his mind, but he remained silent and downtrodden as he handed her her cloak. He helped lead her out of his house, and after bidding her farewell he silently retreated back inside to stave off the cold. She huddled herself under her cloak as the cold bit her face, and then she made her way back to the inn. 

She locked the door behind her, pressing herself against it dejectedly. She stooped over, wavering a little, and after kicking off her boots she went to bed. Her dreams were filled with carnal desires as she tossed and turned in her sleep. She awoke in the middle of the night in a heated sweat with her hand down her trousers, but that gut feeling of rejection hit her again. She shifted uncomfortably and then stared at the door. 

She crept out of bed to check if it was still locked, and after making sure it was she fell back onto the bed, letting her hand trail back down into her trousers to make its way down between her hot, wet slit. She breathed and quietly moaned as she slowly pumped her fingers to let that pleasant feeling wash over her. She slipped a hand underneath her knit top to massage one of her breasts, mewling and slowly shifting across the sheets to position herself into a more pleasurable position.

After some time, however, she furrowed her brow when she couldn’t reach that high she so desperately wanted. She needed more, she needed that fullness feeling inside of her. She tried to think about that moment between her and Khadi and pumped her fingers faster, but a pit feeling formed in her stomach. She sighed and eventually gave up, turning to her side to sleep.

Riela woke up with a headache, and she chastised herself for not drinking any water that night. She sat up in bed and pouted realizing she was alone. She sighed deeply from her nose and removed the covers, sitting at the edge of her bed feeling cold inside. Her body still tingled with desire, but she had to set those thoughts aside in order to prepare for her day. 

She was greeted with the warm, fragrant smell of apple pie as she went downstairs, and she couldn’t help but order herself a slice along with two large steins of water. She nursed her headache with one hand on the table, taking a large swig of the water before diving into the pie. The innkeeper paid no mind to her, but hearing the glint of coin he finally turned around and added it to his reserves. He grumbled a little, then finally spoke.

“Long night?”

“Yeah.”

“Goin’ to the watchtower today?”

“Yeah.”

“Be careful.”

“Thank you.”

He grumbled again, and then finally left her alone. Once the headache subsided, she went back to her room to put on her cloak then left. She noticed it had snowed again when she stepped outside of the inn, and the villagers were out shoveling snow from the main roads and out from their crops. She was greeted by some of them, and she quietly greeted them back. She looked over at the mill by the creek and saw Khadi in his straw hat lifting lumber over to a pile and she sighed. She looked away, and then made her way to the black forest of thin trees at the edge of the village. She looked through her journal at the map one of the villagers drew for her, and headed southeast. 

The forest was vast and largely quiet, with the black, thin trees huddled tight in some places and opening into a few clearings where tree stumps lay. She came across a small, frozen pond with a few deer digging their faces through the snow for food, but then she grew puzzled when she realized the deer were covered in leopard spots and had long, swishing tails of an ox. She wanted to further investigate them, but soon as she drew too close they fled. She looked back down at the crude map and followed the landmarks of large boulders covered in ancient runes, then finally she spotted the path lined with stacked stones.

After half an hour of traveling the path, she finally came across a small clearing where she saw the dilapidated stone watchtower. She cautiously approached the tower, preparing to recite spells of wards in case someone attempted to attack her, but everything around her remained eerily still. The only sounds she heard were the crunching of the snow under her  leather boots. She stopped and squinted, lowering her hood to get a better look at the top of the watchtower, but still, she saw no signs of life. With a small, foggy breath, she made her way inside.

The first thing to hit her was the pungent smell of decaying flesh; it was so strong that she had to cover her nose with her cloak. There was no light within the tower, and so she summoned up a ball of light to shine the chaos surrounding her. 

It was a laboratory of sorts in shambles, with all sorts of glass instruments smashed across the ground, and chairs, tables and straw beds left overturned. It was the sign of a very large struggle, with slashes of dried blood and magical burns blasted across the walls. She eventually found the source of the stench: all sorts of organic mounds of rotten, gray flesh floating in purple and green liquids on desks and other wooden surfaces; various animal skeletons in all kinds of barbaric iron cages hung up on the walls, and finally, three rotting skeletons in slashed up robes lying across the floor.

They were in poses of agony, with one of them separated at the hip, with bits of frost covering the faded blue robes, lying in pools of long-dried blood. As disgusting as the sights were, it was something she had grown accustomed to as a court mage, and so she silently pressed on to find any signs of life within the watchtower, but all she found were more decaying, bloodied skeletons sprawled across the floor and more decomposing experiments in cages and liquids.

She touched nothing as she counted five torn up bodies and 16 animals on the first floor alone, and as she made her way up the stone steps she counted three more mages on the second floor, with deaths just as violent as the ones on the first floor. There, she also encountered 10 bizarre animal skeletons in various states of decay, showing signs of something she finally recognized. Strewn about the tables and cobblestone floor were papers and scrolls detailing all sorts of scientific research. She knelt down to shine her ethereal light on one of the papers and her suspicions were confirmed.

Now, chimera research wasn’t illegal within the queen’s territories, nor were creating them, but it required the queen’s permission, and it was very obvious that these mages were crude novices. Riela pressed on to check the final, third floor. She thought to herself about the villagers’ stories, and how they claimed these mages threatened them to keep quiet about their research, but how long ago did that happen? The struggle that took place here looked as if it happened years ago, what with the level of decay and frost building up. The higher she climbed up the steps, the colder the place grew, and so she held herself with her free arm underneath her bosom. 

The third floor was where the struggle seemed to begin. Old blood was splattered across the diagram-covered walls, and in the center of the area was a mage’s skeletal remains in pieces, with one hand clutching the ladder leading to the outside. Further forward were the splintered remains of a large, wooden door a few feet away from where it was hinged, revealing a room where light shone in. She entered the room and the smell of decay was finally faint enough for her to put her cloak down.

As she surveyed the room, she found what looked like the signs of a makeshift prison; on the walls were broken shackles and latches, to her left was a table of long, decomposed food, to her right was a foul-smelling bucket of unmentionable matter, and in the center was a shoddy bed of straw and animal skins. Her heart sank at the sight. She bit her gloved thumb and knit her brow, turning on her heel to leave this abominable place, but something caught her eye.

There, covered in brown blood, was a scroll glued to the wall with wax. She peered in closer, shining her ball of light over it to make out what looked like formulas and notes surrounding an elaborate illustration of the moon and several animal species. Her eyes widened as she looked in further, finally realizing just what they were researching once she looked up through the opening in the prison. She then went through the papers on a desk below the scroll and finally found a journal. She opened it up and skimmed through the elaborate entries, but then her stomach sank as she finally found the identity of the prisoner. She turned on her heel once more, and then headed back to the village to tell them of her findings.

When she approached the village, Riza approached her.

“Ho, thank the gods you’re in one piece!’ she said warmly. “What did you find?”

“A lot that I would rather remain unmentioned,” Riela replied with a bubble in her gut. “But first I must ask you something.”

“Ho?”

“About the mages— how long ago was it that they threatened your village?”

“Hrmm, well, it was actually a few years ago,” she said. “We never once bothered them after that, ‘specially when the werewolf started appearing ‘round the same time.”

“I see,” Riela furrowed her brow. “I must tell you what we’re actually dealing with.”

“Eh? What did you find in there?”

“The mages were experimenting with chimeras,” she pursed her lips. “And… one of them might actually be your ‘werewolf’.”

Riza puffed her pipe in a fervor. She hurriedly looked over her shoulder then pulled Riela out further away from the village. She leaned in close to her, and Riela could smell the tobacco on her breath.

“So what you’re sayin’ is it’s a were-chimera?” she asked quietly.

Riela nodded. Riza leaned back and put a bony hand on her hip.

“A were-chimera… I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

“This would be the very first case of one,” she bit her thumb again. “But...”

“But?”

“I don’t know,” Riela admitted while lowering her head, grimacing. “What I found… I can’t help but sympathize with them. I know who it is, and I have a feeling that you do, too.”

Riza furrowed her brow and sighed with a grimace. 

“And,” she said while lowering her head. “I understand if the village would want me to put them down. It’s my job to answer the call of the queen’s people.”

Riza paused, looking over to her right. Riela looked over to where her snout pointed but saw no one. The elder tapped her foot, mulling around, then sighed.

“Now I’m no village chief, but what I say tends to go with them,” she said as she crossed her arms. “And, well, from what they been sayin’ is just, we don’t want any more trouble.”

“But,” she continued, leaning further in. “D’you think wolfsbane’ll work?”

Riela paused, thinking hard to herself, but she then furrowed her brow and put a hand to her face. “I don’t know. This is all new territory.”

“Well,” Riza grumbled out. “If they’re aware of what they’re doin’, maybe you can reason with ‘em. Tell ‘em not to go around killin’ our cattle anymore.”

“I’ll try.”

That night, Riela laid in her bed, arms crossed, thinking to herself. Her mind was fully preoccupied with thoughts of the gruesome scene within the watchtower and the diagrams across the walls, but what really remained etched into her mind was the prison and its absent prisoner. Her mind raced and her stomach sank even lower. She covered her eyes with an arm, shut her eyes tight and sighed. 

She needed a drink. She sat up and moved to the edge of her bed, leaning forward to stare at her feet before standing up. She delicately opened the door, closing it behind her before descending down the stairs. The innkeeper greeted her before he even saw her, and Riela found him wiping down an already-clean mug to serve his only customer— a tired, brown-skinned elf in black robes wearing a messenger bag. The elf largely ignored her and was almost falling asleep at the table. Riela greeted the innkeeper back and sat down at the bar, ordering herself a pint of ale, water and some freshly-roasted mutton. He was normally the silent type, but, like the rest of the village, he was curious about what she found at the mage’s watchtower. 

She took a swig of her drink before she spoke, giving him a short summary of what she found, and he was quick to piece together what she also thought. Even though the elf wasn’t paying any attention to them, the innkeeper leaned in closer to her, speaking lowly. 

“So what you’re saying is that we’ve been dealing with a chimera all this time, huh.”

“That is the conclusion I’ve drawn so far, yes.”

He looked from side to side, leaning in closer.

“D’you think it could blend in as one of us?”

Riela solemnly nodded. He rested an arm onto the counter and leaned in even closer, his yellow eyes staring directly into hers.

“Then… do you think…?”

She closed her eyes, sighed and nodded again. He grumbled a little, then pulled away from her and went on to serve his other sleepy customer. She finally touched her mutton as she spoke to the innkeeper again.

“I want it to be known that on the night of the full moon, I’ll be patrolling the area that night to solve this problem once and for all.”

The half-lidded elf looked at her, puzzled. 

“What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” the innkeeper said. “Go get some rest.”

The elf yawned and agreed, then finally left the innkeeper alone with Riela. Riela and him sat in silence, with only the clink of her fork and knife singing along with the crackling of the fireplace. Just as she placed a bite of the mellow mutton into her mouth, the innkeeper suddenly spoke up.

“Don’t kill ‘em.” 

Riela looked up at him. “Huh?”

“Don’t kill ‘em, yeah?”

“I can’t say what I might do,” Riela said as she frowned, looking back down at her plate of food. “Tomorrow the village will make their decision.”

He grumbled as if he knew what the answer might be, but he said nothing else. She slowly finished the rest of her food, then chugged down the rest of her water before leaving some coin and returning to her room. She closed the door behind her with a pensive look, and then climbed into bed with an arm over her face. Her stomach churned anxiously and she frowned before hugging a pillow to calm her nerves. Her thoughts raced, making it hard for her to sleep that night.

It would be about another two days before the full moon, and everyone within the village had been informed of her plans. The tired elf patron had already left the next morning, and so Riela only had to deal with the villagers. They were already preparing for the night of the full moon, testing their locks and windows and keeping their cattle locked up in their stables. She practiced her patrols in the daylight, doing her best to memorize the simple roads.

There was the main path that led through the village out into the main road to Klin, and then it split into two other paths with one more path leading out to the west of the forest, out to the main path leaving Eribus. When she walked back from one of the dead-end paths, she saw that the elder villagers were huddled together in a tight circle outside the inn. Her stomach dropped when Riza broke from the crowd and hobbled over to her.

“Well,” Riza began. “Good news is no one can decide. Do what you want.”

Riela sighed with a pensive look on her face, but her shoulders sloped and her body no longer tensed up. She placed a hand on the pouch on her waist and opened it up. She took out the wolfsbane potion to stare at it again, and then she looked up at the elder. 

“Let’s hope this works,” she said to her. 

At night, the roads were empty save for Riela continuing her mock patrols after taking a break at the inn. She frowned a little at how quiet and dark everything was, and the only light she had was a small, iron lantern that one of the younger villagers let her borrow. She eventually grew bored with her routine as she walked down the western-most path of the village, tracing her footsteps, but then she heard something. She whisked around, readying a spell under her breath, but nothing was there. She still kept her wits about, and when she returned to the main road, she came across a set of footprints in the snow. 

She leaned in closer while shining her lantern on them to identify what they belonged to, and it was obviously a wolfkin’s paw prints. Puzzled, she shone the lantern further off to see where they came from, only to see them stretch out to somewhere outside of the village to the west of the forest. She then turned to see where they led, and hurriedly followed them to see that they led into the forest. She paused for a moment, pondering, but then pressed on.

 The footprints were hurried and didn’t follow any path of some kind. She kept looking back at the village wondering if she should continue investigating, but something drew her to them. She lost track of time and eventually the wind began to howl and snow started falling again hard. She held up her lantern to see where the prints kept going, but they led to somewhere dark and thick. She looked left and right as she knit her brow and bit her lip, fidgeting, but then she made the difficult decision to return to the village before she ended up lost.

The next day, it continued to snow hard and Riela was forced to take shelter in the inn when the wind almost blew her sideways during her mock patrols. She wasn’t alone in there for once, however, and several of the villagers were there heartily chatting away before going quiet when she entered the room. They quietly nodded at her, and then after a slow start the room was again filled with all kinds of chatter and laughter. She drew up a seat at the front counter and ordered herself something warm to flush up her icy cheeks. The innkeeper was silent again, but he spoke up when she kept looking around the room.

“Not here,” he growled out. “Went out on an errand.”

“But it’s snowing hard out there.”

He shrugged. She looked down at her cup of clear, brown cider, then perked up as she remembered something.

“Oh, also,” she said as she adjusted her seat. “Someone came through the village last night.”

The innkeeper’s ears perked up but he remained fixated on cleaning the counter. 

“A wolfkin by the looks of the footprints, and they went somewhere into the forest.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I didn’t want to get lost so I couldn’t follow them for very long, but they went somewhere deep within there,” she leaned in closer. “Do you know if there’s anything out there besides the mage’s watchtower?”

“Don’t know,” he grumbled out. “Been years since I went huntin’ out there, what with the mages and, y’know, their messes. I’ve seen a few rune stones and a pond, but not much else.”

Riela nodded. She went silent and remained silent for the rest of the day, puzzled over what she encountered, and then she finally withdrew from the crowd after finishing her drink. She went up to her room for a different pair of clothes and then went back downstairs to head towards the bath.

She tried to relax while in the cramped, wooden tub but her mind was on everything at once, thinking about whether the person traveling through the village had anything to do with their problem, but then she sighed and focused on preparing herself for the next night. She finished her bath after scrubbing down her shapely legs and then went back to her room, writing in her journal, then reading her novel until she fell asleep.

On the night of the full moon, silence fell upon the village. All of the doors and windows were shut tight, and the cattle were locked away much tighter than usual. Riela patrolled the roads with her hood drawn to stave off the cold, illuminating her path with her lantern. She kept her hand pressed against her waist pouches, looking left and right and over her shoulder. She stared up at the full moon above her, thanking the gods that it wasn’t snowing anymore. Her heart raced as she thought about how fast the day went by, and how she’s now going to deal with a were-chimera, but then her stomach tensed up when she remembered just who they were. She pursed her lips as her mind continued to race while the hours grew. She slowly began to doubt if she drew the correct conclusions, but then her answer finally approached her as she turned the corner.

There in the middle of the main road was a figure, doubled over, swaying and stumbling across the path. She tried to shine her lantern on them but they quickly darted towards her, shoving her to the ground. Her lantern flew out of her hands, illuminating the back paws of the fleeing figure. She quickly scrambled to her feet and gave chase, her face flush with fury. She threw a still spell at them but they dodged it with lightning fast speed, disappearing into the thin, black woods. She entered the forest, hurriedly following the footsteps left behind by the figure, and hoped that it wouldn’t snow again.

Riela couldn’t keep up with their pace and had to stop for a moment to catch her breath. Her eyes widened and she gripped the strings of her cloak when a loud cracking of wood followed by a low howl echoed around her. A shiver ran down her spine. She cradled her lantern tight, darting her eyes around for any signs of life before looking at the footprints ahead of her. Warmth ebbed throughout her body as she cradled the lantern, and once it was enough she pressed on.

After some time, she came across a clearing lit by soft, ethereal moonlight and was too lost in thought looking up at it to notice the large dip ahead. She tripped face first into the snow and it snuffed out her lantern. The world hushed around her. She quickly sat up to gather her bearings but her eyes widened at the bare ground, hands rubbing across the frozen grass and dirt.

In disbelief, she whispered a small chant and a soft sparkling ball of light lit the ground. The footprints she followed stopped into a snow-less ditch and came out as something much bigger. There were signs of a struggle, with deep hand prints sloshing the snow around the pit. Her heart raced as she crawled onto her knees seeing the hand prints growing larger as it advanced towards the clearing, changing shape and digging deeper into the snow. She crawled further, following them in awed shock. She looked up as the orb of light lit the wounds across the black bark of the trees. Riela stood up, exhaling a foggy breath in disbelief.

She fidgeted and shivered at the sheer size of this were-chimera. Dusting snow off her knees, she fastened the lantern away on her hip, then held herself under her warm cloak as a breeze approached her from the clearing. She whispered away the floating orb of light and pressed herself against the trees when she heard a crack cutting the icy air. Her heart raced again as she pulled her eyes towards the cracking sound’s direction.

There she saw the silver outline of a massive, pitch-black creature, remaining crouched with its back turned to her, feverishly groaning and panting. Its reptilian tail whipped up powdery snow behind it until it revealed the frozen grass below. It seemed completely unaware of her presence as it continued to dig one of its claws into the bark of the tree, which let out another silence-shattering snap. She quietly weaved through the trees to get a better view of the beast from a different angle. It had a menacing wolfkin profile but there were sweeping goat horns protruding from its skull. A black mane thick like a lion's flowed down to its shoulders where thick, straining muscles hid under its dark fur. The creature was easily as tall as her hunched over, and almost double her height if standing erect. The ends of her hairs suddenly stood up as she peered further down and covered her mouth in shock.

The beast fervently masturbated against the tree, clawed hind legs digging deep into the snow. The snow at the base of the tree had completely melted away from the hot warmth the creature emanated. Riela blushed hard as she couldn't look away from the massive reddish-pink wolf-cock twitching and leaking pre everywhere. Even as she cupped her mouth and turned away, her eyes kept returning to the creature. Fear crippled her movements, unable to tear herself away even as the lewd scent finally assaulted her senses. The creature's hand was a blur as it continued, tongue lolling out in pure ecstasy as it neared release.

The creature pumped faster, panting raggedly as it crippled the tree bark with its raw strength. Riela nervously bit her finger as her eyes remained fixated on it. The creature's entire body convulsed as it flung its head up with a mighty howl, muscles bulging as it thrust its hips in sync with its pulsating cock. The creature's knot inflated as it splashed a torrent of seed against the tree. It pumped its length a few more times until its cock finally grew limp and then the beast fell onto its knees, breathing hard.

Riela trembled quietly, pressing herself against a tree. Hot sweat trickled down her neck and chest, the icy bite of winter air licking her cheeks while she bit her lower lip, warmth shooting down into her groin. She chastised herself and readied to confront the beast until the ends of her hairs stood up again. She froze, then turned around. The beast stared directly into the woods, in her direction, breathing raggedly.

Her eyes widened as it drew closer to her on its hind legs, her eyes fixated on its cock disappearing into its sheath. She prepared for the worst, whispering the nastiest of spells under her breath, but then stopped when it collapsed into a submissive pose. Surprisingly, it spoke.