Updated: Sep 24, 2021
This month we were busy, so we decided to write them separately. Jake is the only one who actually did it! He gets 500 kudos.
Soft footfalls avoided clusters of fallen leaves in the province of Kessig’s northern woodlands, called the Ulvenwald. It was a near hour to dusk as two Hazavash hunters, Azat and Nisanur stalked the land seeking out whatever animals they could to bring back to the tribe for their furs and meat. Luckily for them, the next full moon was days off, leaving them safe from werewolf attacks as were common in Kessig, but the Ulvenwald still held many dangers.
“We’re getting too far into the Kurtlar Ormanı,” says Azat. “The further from the camp we get, the more danger we put ourselves in, Nisa.
Nisanur waved her hand dismissively at Azat’s worries. “That’s where the good hunts are, Azat. We cannot just keep bringing back rabbits and small birds. We need actual meat for the tribe.”
“Tatlı ruhlar, Nisa, that meat would mean little if we die before we can bring it back.” Nisanur rolled her eyes dramatically at Azat’s cursing, her braids tossing as her head turned back to the look at Azat unimpressively. “You are far too enamored with gaining glory from the elders.”
“Well, we’re not getting glory or even thanks from the melek köleler,” She spat. She turned and continued her pursuit through the forest.
Azat brought his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose and breathed a deep sigh quietly to himself. In that moment, he heard steps from behind them. Close. Heavy. Too heavy for hunter reinforcements from the tribe.
Turning his eyes back to Nisanur, he realized she had left his sight. He cursed to himself and began quick, quiet movements to catch up to his fellow hunter. His heart beat faster in his chest, mentally cursing Nisanur’s youthful impatience and whatever it was behind them that as hounding them.
His keen hearing allowed himself to follow Nisa’s comparatively quiet strides, taking mental notes on their unseen pursuer’s footfalls.
Turning the corner of a thick tree trunk, Azat saw the back of Nisanur, standing ready, bow held stiffly and arrow nocked. Beyond her, he saw a skeletal canine standing in the clearing, soft circular pale green light glowed from the empty eye sockets. The skeleton’s frame was covered in vines, encircling nearly the entirety of its ribs and covering chunks of its skull messily.
“Nisa…” Azat whispered. Nisanur cocked her head back towards him ever so slightly to signal that she had heard him. Azat pulled the wooden club off his belt, both hunters steadily watching the creature before them. The smallest of movements assuring them that this wasn’t just a well-made bone statue. In his studying of the creature before them, Azat realized he had lost focus on the footsteps behind them.
A rustling in the bushes behind them drew Azat’s attention as a second skeletal canine creature emerged, vines dragging along the Ulvenwald ground like entrails from a gut torn open by a ghoul.
“Do we run?” whispered Nisanur. “I was prepared for rabbits, or wolves, or even boars, but not these…”
“Running would be rather rude,” a gravelly, brittle voice whispers from the bushes behind Azat.
The shrubbery shook as a tall figure emerged. It’s head covered in shaggy long black hair topped with slightly curved horns. Vines ran around the horns and across the gap between like a naturalistic headdress and leaves and flowers hung off them limply. In the place of a human face, a canine skull that would be an ivory color if not for the baked in dirt and grime. In a yawning hole in the center of its forehead sat a flower with a brown center and purple petals. Glistening, unblinking white orbs took the place of its eyes and ears made of the same bone-like material held earrings that formed a crescent around a triangle. Its body was covered head to toe in black robing that gave nothing of its body away. In its skeletal fingers, it held an ivory staff with the skull of a bird with a plumage of decorative feathers in dark reds, browns, and blacks atop it.
“You enter my domain and seek to leave without so much of a parting gift?” The creature nearly floated closer to the hunters. The billowing blackness covering any movement on its lower half.
Azat gasped. “Kemik İhale.” His eyes wide as Nisanur looked to him, arching a brow. “A nature spirit. Said to inhabit part of the Ulvenwald. The elders have records that speak of it.”
“You know me,” its stilted voice had a tone of pride within it.
“I know you’re a devil. A creature of darkness. A danger to our people.” Azat’s eyes were locked on Kemik İhale.
Kemik İhale’s head quirked. It let out a disappointed sighing sound. “So very rude.” It extends an arm to point behind Azat and Nisa. Suddenly, the Hazavash hunters felt the ground vibrate beneath them. Nisa turned her head instinctually. Behind them, a large tree had begun moving, thrusting its branch-arms into the ground. Vines shot up entangling around the hunter’s wrists and ankles. Nisa turned her head back. Kemik İhale was right next to Azat, its hand moving to embrace his cheek. The hand had skin on it. Leathery, overly wrinkled skin.
“A devil, you say?” Its voice was coy, questioning. “I am no devil. I am this land.” The voice took a dark turn. “And your bone and blood will feed it. The land will grow strong off those who do not belong here.” The vine built upon themselves, creeping up the hunters’ arms and legs.
The hunters’ heartbeats quickened as they felt the vines pull taut on their limbs and begin to pull downwards.
“I hope you’ve had a pleasant time exploring the forest. For it will be where you will experience your Blessed Sleep.”
Nisa began to let out a primal scream only for more vines to pull around her mouth like a gag. Azat began uttering silent prayers to Haluk, the Hazavash spirit of earth to watch over them and protect them from this monster. The ground gave out from underneath them as the vines pulled them down into the darkness.