The Highland Wulver
Part 1 In The ‘Cursed Creature’ Supernatural Horror Series
It knew to strike after all torchlight faded. Unnatural speed and agility moved the creature through trees and brambles. The beast stilled as it stood upon a large rock jutting from the hill. A breeze from the loch brought a cold warning to remain inside. But, not all obeyed. A full moon cast its spotlight, masking everything in a white hue. Gilt eyes fell upon the village. Its next victim. Claws scratched against rock. A long nose twitched, hoping to find the scent of anyone who may have forgotten curfew. The predator’s gray fur danced in the chilled air. Quickened breaths exposed themselves as puffs of mist. Pattering of young feet reached its stiffened ears. With a grunt, the monster charged downhill and into the settlement. It demanded a blood tribute.
This small village sat alone atop the mountain. To avoid jagged and rough terrain, a single road guided travelers through it, over the Highland. Few ever used this lone trail, including traders. Most travelers, if any, came during the day. And for good reason.
Having used it as a hunting grounds before, the creature entered this town with little distress. It stood on its hind legs, in search of what scent teased it from the hilltop. Too large for any door, the creature knew it needed to draw them out. Bloodshed had never failed before.
The beast stood motionless. Its pointed ears twitched, listening to everything within its hunting ground. Humans walking inside homes, often followed by a panting dog. Pets were easy prey, but never tasted good to this predator. Tonight, it salivated for the crunch of human bones. A contracting nose guided the head and eyes as it shuffled through different scents. Muscles on its upper arms flexed and relaxed upon hearing movement. The hunter scratched at the ground with clawed toes, growing in excitement. Excitement that dared it to strike early.
A dim light shined as a door opened, four houses away. The creature’s eyes found a young lad stepping outside. Before attacking, it watched to see if the boy noticed. Whether he did not see his hunter or did not care, the child stood there and gave three sharp whistles.
“C’mere puppy,” the boy whispered.
A snarl climbed up the monster’s snout: saliva slid down every razor-sharp tooth. No longer interested in the boy’s foolishness, the creature raced toward its next victim, galloping on all fours. With each pound on the ground, its demonic speed increased. Three large steps and a lunge were all its jaws needed to claim their bloody trophy. The unfortunate lad never saw its approach.
Familiar and foreign faces alike filled the tavern. Vegetable soup and ale plugged everyone’s nostrils as song and laughter danced in their ears. A man carrying a small tabor drum encouraged the music to continue. A local drunk by the name of McAllister, had already passed out in a dimly-lit corner. The tavern: The Broken Antler fit forty Scotsman comfortably. Tonight looked more like fifty. A young fair-haired woman, and the tavern’s sole barmaid, scratched her fingernails against a wooden table as their rowdiness grew. Her small, round face snarled as mugs of ale splashed everywhere.
This wooden structure held eight tables and a bar spanning the far wall. Crackling flames sat in a fireplace to its right. To the bar’s left were animal pelts. Above all these furs sat a pair of antlers with one side broken, about half the length of its counterpart. Four timber support-columns stretched to the ceiling. Being in a small town not far from Loch Ness, The Broken Antler had always been the last stop for travelers before their trudge up the mountain’s lonely dirt way.
Most patrons were easygoing — as far as a group of clansmen can be, crowded so close together. The bard started to play his favorite tune when screams and wailing silenced him. Soon, everyone followed the bard in his stillness as a second voice bellowed.
“Help! Please, someone, help us!” Two men came crashing through the tavern’s door. Everyone inside lept to their feet, except McAllister, who sat in a corner, drooling within his drunken slumber. As barstools toppled over, the sea of patrons shivered with what they saw. Blood and sweat matted long hair around one man’s forehead. A bald and much taller man followed. His clothing: riddled with small tears and cuts. His ashen pallor matched his wide, unblinking eyes.
“You must help us!” The tall man continued to cry out. Fatigue dropped him to his knees.
Shoving two Scotsmen away, a friendly patron ran to his aid. He rested a hand on the back of the bleeding man’s head, keeping him propped up.
“Grab somethin’ he can rest his head on!” The patron shouted to the crowd. He noticed a familiar red, blue, and green tartan on both men’s kilts: often worn by Murray clansman.
“You two come from the mountain don’t ya?” The injured man nodded as his new friend used a sleeve to wipe away some of the blood. “Don’t ya worry friend, ye’re safe now.”
A softness in his words brought the injured man to weep.
“It took my s-son. My son is…gone,” he sobbed.
Anice elbowed her way through the ranks of Scotsmen. A rolled blanket rested under each arm and a mug of water sat in either hand. She handed her drinks over first. The bald man’s dry throat coughed up any water that passed his lips. His second attempt at taking a sip proved far more successful.
“Who took your son?” Anice asked.
“Our village came under attack,” the long-haired man answered. “Last night — it came out of the woods. It-it took Davey’s son first.”
“What beast came from the woods? Bears?” another patron asked.
“N-no, not…not a bear.” Davey struggled, rising to his feet. He found a wooden chair next to his friend and sat down near him. “It wa-was the White Wolver,” he answered through heavy pants. “It took my family from me.” Davey covered his face with one hand and slammed the other against a table.
Whispers of a White Wulver passed through the tavern-like spiders. Most had never heard of such a creature.
“There ain’t no wolves in d’ese parts,” one man said. “It couldn’t have been a wolf.”
“This ain’t no regular wolf, laddie. They be speakin’ of a special type of wolf. Ain’t ye?”
An older man stepped around the bar and approached both Murrays. White strands speckled his black hair and beard. He wore a faded blue tunic underneath his blue and green plaid great-kilt. The unmistakable Forbes tartan.
The two Murrays looked at each other, then to the old man, and nodded their heads.
“James and I thought no one would believe us when we told ‘em,” Davey said. “You know of this creature?”
The grizzled man gave a grunt. He pointed to his own face.
“Aye. I’ve seen the beast wit’ ma own eyes, lad.” Scowls from patrons found the old man.
“You and all yer tall tales, father,” the barmaid snapped. “These men lost their families, not their boredom! They need aid, not stories.”
“Careful what ya’ say about such a livin’ legend, lassie,” shouted another patron. “If Angus: The Great Hunter had seen it, the skin would be on this tavern’s wall.”
“That be one beast I will never kill,” Angus answered.
“Never kill it? It took my family!” Dave rose to his feet. “I say we go find and rid the world of this animal!”
A loud roar of agreeing tavern patrons brought a shiver to the Broken Antler’s foundation. Everyone gave a hardy cheer as Angus hung his head. James alone took note of this. The wary stranger quieted his friend, then approached Angus.
“You know somethin’, don’t ya?” He asked. His question summoned a silence amongst the patrons. The Murray clansman gritted his teeth. “Please, sir. You’ve got to help us.”
Angus shook his head. His stare met James.
“It ain’t ’cause I don’t want to help ya, lad,” he stated. “It’s ’cause I already tried. I’ve seen what this creature can do ta’ folks. I wish the beast didn’t go after yer family. But this is something I won’t be helpin’ ya wit’.”
“I beg of you,” Davey pleaded. “It killed my family. I’m lucky to have gotten here alive! The Forbes and Murray clans were once brought together by Carl the Short. Do not let his hard work go unnoticed ‘ere.”
Angus looked to the large man — their eyes met. Davey’s glassy expression made him hesitate to answer.
“Sit here, Davey.” Angus approached the two men and found a seat next to them. “Now, I won’t be going out there, helpin’ ya kill this beast. But I can tell ya’ what ya’ face. It happened two winters ago, not far from Drumnadrochit…”
“Lawrence…where is everyone?” Angus yelled to his friend through heavy breaths. Sweat cascaded down his forehead. Lawrence’s curled, fiery hair matted itself all around his long face. Blood trickled down the side of his head. A man with short black hair wearing the same green and white plaid kilt followed close behind.
“The creature found us, Angus,” his friend screamed. “We were lookin’ for you and your kin when it chased us down. After bein’ separated, I heard screams and feared the worst, so I turned back.” Lawrence rested — hands atop his knees — for a much-needed breather. He looked around to realize only Angus remained. Raw nerves ate at his insides. “Wh-where’s your kin?” he asked.
Angus shook his head. A tear ran down his cheek. The silence said everything. Lawrence placed a hand on his mourning friend’s shoulder. His jaw stiffened as a scowl formed.
“We’ll kill the bast’d yet, Angus,” he said.
Snapping twigs interrupted the inspiring moment. Angus spun around to face the woods they were trapped in. Shadows stirred within them.
“Lawrence! It found us again!”
Never being much in the way of a warrior, Lawrence wielded two small dirks. Angus had lost his sword in a prior standoff with the beast, leaving him with a rake he found alongside a fallen clansman. Each stood with their back to the other.
“Be sharp, lad!” Angus demanded. “If we attack this together we can still kill it!” Callused hands wrapped around his rake.
Grunts echoed through trees while the ground shook from the creature’s pounding feet. Angus’s breaths fell in cadence with galloping legs.
Lawrence scanned through trees. Shadows teased the corner of his eyes. Before his sight focused, all darkness stilled. The forest fell silent. Both Scotsmen glanced at one another. Their knees trembled, but whitened knuckles wrapped around their weapons proved neither wanted to retreat.
Before anyone spoke again, a cluster of small trees splintered in all directions. A large beast covered in white fur lept through wooden fragments and slammed to the ground. When it stood, the monster towered over both men. Terror chilled the spine of each Scot — none felt the strength to attack.
“A…a wulver,” Lawrence gasped. “Just like the legends say!”
The wulver glared at them with narrowed, gilt eyes. A curled lip revealed stained teeth. Angus felt it was smirking at the fear that possessed its prey.
Angus knew he had to do something. With reckless abandon, he charged the animal. It took half a step back, unfamiliar with such bravado from its prey. Paying for its mistake, slashes of a rake found their mark on the wolf’s furry chest, ending at its naval.
The beast swung a powerful arm at Angus, knocking him off his feet. He remained motionless upon landing, keeping his eyes closed. This Scotsman had been through enough fights to know when they had been lost.
Angus lowered his head. He continued, but spoke with his eyes stuck to the floor.
“The worst feeling in the world is hearing ya best friend scream for his life…and there’s not a thing ye’ can do for him.”
James put a hand on Angus’ back. A familiar scowl formed.
“I thank you for your tale and am sorry for ye’r loss. No one blames you for what ya did. We all would’a done the same, I believe.” He pointed to the crowd in the tavern. “But we have more people than you did. It attacked my village. It killed Davy’s family. We’re going to get our revenge.” He turned to the rest of the tavern. “Who’s wit’ me?”
With clenched fists raised, another loud cheer shook the tavern. This time, their battle-cry stirred McAllister, who only readjusted into his chair. It didn’t take long before Davy and James rallied everyone out the door and up to their village. Once the tavern emptied — leaving he and Anice alone, Angus took a deep breath. He approached one of his shutters. Pushing both sides open, revealed a mob of vengeful villagers fading into an endless night.
“It appears they bought the story,” said Angus.
Anice placed the mugs she had collected, upon the bar. She placed her hands on the bar, with her back to Angus.”
“They always do,” she remarked. “Why wouldn’t they now?”
Angus shuddered at the glowing torchlight he spotted, moving through the trails.
“You were sloppy, keepin’ two of ’em alive. Was yer hunger that bad t’night where ya’ had to take some stray lad?” he asked. Angus kept his head down, unable to look at the glimmer in her eye.
Anice curled her fingers at the remark. Her nails dug into the warped, hardwood of the bar. She gnashed her teeth together.
“Aye, it was alone! It took everything I had not to bleed them all here like hunted deer. I almost lost control after smelling the bald one’s blood!” The bar maiden rested on a shifted hip. “Oh, and telling them you swung the rake: very creative.”
“I had to — for yer sake.” He turned to his daughter. “Yer cravings have been gettin’ worse by the day. They’ve made ya’ reckless! If I didn’t make them pity me, they never would’a left.”
Anice whipped around from the bar to face Angus. Her voice deepened as her eyes shimmered with gilt irises.
“And what would you have me do? Lose me mind? Mother tried that if ya don’t remember!” Angus kept his head down, but still felt need to turn his head away. A quick step closer from Anice demanded he lift his stare to her. “Well? What would you have me do?” Her voice echoed through an empty tavern. Angus gave a glance back into the night. A stillness hung in the cool, night air, waiting for the return of its cherished predator. His shoulders slumped with a sigh.
“They’re already climbing up the hill to tha’ Davy fella’s village,” said Angus. “They’ll have torches.”
“Oh, now you’ll allow me to fill my hunger? After they guide me to an entire village? How kind of you father.”
Anice’s beautiful smile now revealed sharpened fangs. Her nails had grown with a similar, keen edge. Angus felt no other option remained. He loved his daughter but feared what lay within her. Angus sat at a table where a full mug of ale still lingered. He reached for it, but a stirring distracted him.
“Y-you’re the m-monster, Anice,” came a cracked voice.
Angus and Anice both looked to a small corner of their bar to find McAllister pointing at them. His knees wobbled, which caused him to lean to one side. Anice snarled. The simple action caused McAllister to stumble back, into his chair. Angus and his daughter watched the man fall to the sticky floor. When he returned to his feet, McAllister ran for the door. He slammed the door behind him. A terrified howl followed as Angus watched a shadow dash down the road.
“You may want to deal with him first. With haste, before he warns the villagers,” he said.
Anice approached Angus. She peered out the window to watch McAllister still stumbling down the dirt road.
“He hasn’t even reached the forest yet.” Anice picked a piece of meat out from between her teeth. “Besides, I could use something to replace the taste of that boy’s dog.”
Still choosing not to look at Anice, Angus pointed to the bar.
“Take the back door — don’t let anyone see ya’. And for God’s sake finish your work this time. I’m tired of cleanin’ up after ya’.”
Anice looked to the dying fire as her golden irises. Taking a step towards the back door, she hunched over in pain, grabbing at her stomach. Returning to a full stand, thickened muscles strained the seams of her dress, with her flexed body. A small tear in her stained blouse showed three large scars defacing her stomach. Anice’s breathing turned into slow, deep grunts.
Angus reached for the mug again. He ignored Anice and her pangs as she walked out the door. The back door slammed shut. He took a sip of ale. A howled echoed. He had heard it countless times before, yet a quiver still claimed his body. The White Wulver had been freed.
Already familiar with how such tales end, Angus wondered when his daughter might befall the same fate of her mother and be found at the edge of a clansman’s sword. Hoping that it not be that tonight, he took another long swig of ale and prepared to join his fellow villagers by reaching for an ax beneath his bar. The claws upon its cracked hilt and wolf-carved blade often inspired hope. Similar to Lawrence, the barkeep wanted to make the villagers think he fought alongside them. Friendship had always been good for a final thought amongst dying men. And at least his conscience rested easier, knowing he gave them that.
Thanks for the read! If you enjoyed, please give it a ‘like’! I’ll be sure to have more monsters, blood, and dread coming your way in part 2 of the series, ‘Valhalla’s Wulver’, which you can read now!
Filled with dread,