Fiction Friday: The Idigam Chronicle Anthology

Werewolf: The Forsaken

This week we present Desert Dreaming Hunt, a story by Leath Sheales from The Idigam Chronicle Anthology for Werewolf: The Forsaken.

In the darkness under the star-spattered sky, John Tjangala Stonewood, Ithaeur and Bone Shadow of the Irretye Dreaming, hunted Sha’gash Nuningsisa as his prey.

Sha’gash Nuningsisa had spewed into the Shadow from one of the many drunken nights in the town of Alice Springs. Had the Forsaken held the town, the spirit would have stayed in the Hisil, feeding on the Essence of humanity’s obsession with intoxication. Instead, Fire-Touched Anshega controlled the territory and cared little for protecting humans from the Hisil’s residents.

Sha’gash Nuningsisa was tougher than its kin and fattened on a feast of lesser spirits of alcohol and revelry. It was a re?ection of human addiction — it needed its fix and pushed limits to get it. It rode drunks and urged them to excess, imbibing beyond the point of injury and death. It thrilled in the sensations and abandoned its poisoned hosts without a care.

The spirit hadn’t meant to leave Alice Springs. Its latest doomed host had stepped into a car with three other drunken humans, and smashed into a feral camel less than fifty miles from the town. The unrelenting dry had forced the animals closer to human settlements in search of water and they wandered across dark roads in ignorance of any danger. Only foolish drivers braved the desert roads after dark — most knew to watch the scrub carefully for the unwitting, wandering killers. Under the effects of Sha’gash Nuningsisa’s in?uences, the humans were intoxicated beyond the point of foolishness.

When Sha’gash Nuningsisa woke from the blackness its host was near death — the other humans were already dead. It was confused and lost. The dark sky sparkled with stars, not street lights. It was afraid and vulnerable, and accidentally ?ed further away from town and into the darkness.

Sha’gash Nuningsisa had a three day head start by the time Stonewood arrived at the scene of the car accident. The trail was already colder than he preferred, but John knew tricks to warm it. He was favored by Eagle’s Dreaming, and the soaring hunter saw nearly everything from high in the sky. Something from this crash would lead him towards his quarry.

The wrecked car was off the side of the road, upside-down and twisted from the accident. Stonewood sniffed at the wreckage — old blood, oil, plastics, the stink of human sweat in the ruined upholstery — then opened up his senses to Hisil and sniffed again. This time he found the spirit of the car, jolted awake by the wreckage trauma.

Stonewood leaned in close and whispered to it in the First Tongue, spilling a ?icker of Essence through the Gift in his soul. The spirit cried out in despair and pain at the damage to its vessel, but Stonewood hushed its complaints with a snarled command. The terrified spirit obeyed in fear of the Uratha.

Satisfied at the spirit’s compliance, Stonewood barked questions at it but quickly realized the spirit knew almost nothing of what had occurred. The Ithaeur clenched his jaw with forced patience and teased out what little the spirit knew, hoping that it would have at least seen which direction Sha’gash Nuningsisa had gone. After much coaxing, Stonewood learned that his prey had ?ed away from Alice Springs. Stonewood grunted in satisfaction — if the spirit had returned to the town, it would have entered Fire-Touched territory and been beyond the Forsaken’s grasp.

Stonewood knew almost nothing about his prey. The wolf-blooded police officer who alerted the Dreaming Lodge had taken some description from the victim’s confused ghost, but it didn’t know it had been spirit-ridden. Although Stonewood’s Gifts allowed him to see the lingering shades of dead humans, the weak ghost lacked the motivation and anchors to keep it tethered to the physical world and had faded with the sunrise.

What little Stonewood knew was enough for him to claim the right to hunt Sha’gash Nuningsisa, even though he didn’t yet know the spirit’s name. The Bone Shadow placed his battered satchel on the ground and removed what he needed to perform the Siskur-Dah, the sacred rite of the hunt.

He grasped long brown wing feathers from a Wedge-Tailed Eagle between his fingers and curled his hands into fists. The feathers jutted outwards and ?uttered in the wind as Stonewood extended his arms and danced a lazy, spiraling circle around the shattered car. He swooped in close to examine it and see the caked blood on the metal and glass; a dull rust darker than the red desert sands. He threw his head back as he circled back away from the car and shrieked the piercing scream of Eagle into the sky, declaring his dedication to the hunter of the skies and proclaiming all that ?ew, walked, swam, or slithered below him as his rightful prey.

The Ithaeur’s spiraling dance took him away from the wreck and circled to where Sha’gash Nuningsisa abandoned its host to die. The remnants of ?esh streaked the barren, rocky dirt. Desiccated pools of blood and life-giving ?uids stained the earth to mark where the Shadow had transgressed against the ?esh and violated Father Wolf’s laws. Stonewood leapt high into the air, arms outstretched, head forward and down, and landed with violent force on the victim’s death-stain. His bare feet clawed at the ground, grasping the prey in the talons of his totem, as he struck at the air with his beak, rending and tearing at the imagined ephemeral ?esh of the spirit.

Stonewood felt the power of the rite ?ow through him as he danced the Eagle’s hunt, casting the spirit as the prey in his shadow hunt and himself as the predator. He danced and swooped and struck and killed time and again before whirling away and repeating the steps, each time binding his Uratha nature closer to his sacred duty.

When he felt the dance reach its climax and the rite’s power settle into his ?esh and spirit, Stonewood stood as straight as he could with arms outstretched and screamed the Eagle’s shriek once more into the desert. All creatures within earshot shuddered and fell silent as the Uratha staked his claim. For a moment the world paused and held its breath before releasing it again to empower Stonewood to conduct his hunt.

The Bone Shadow packed his belongings into his bag and growled a respectful thanks to the wrecked car’s terrified spirit, before shifting to Urhan and disappearing as a sleek black shadow beneath the unrelenting sun.

Follow Stonewood’s continued hunt for Sha’gash Niningsisa, along with many other stories, in The Idigam Chronicle Anthology, available now in ebook and print from DriveThruFiction.