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Fantasy Red Moon Rising


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The town of Stonecrest saw the beginning and the end of a chapter. Rather, two chapters: that of the father and that of the son.

Stonecrest was a small shepherding community nestled in the northwest part of Rettsuam, a rocky area. The town was named after the ridge of stone which caught the attention of the settlers. In the decades and centuries that followed, it became a contemplative place which overlooked the village.

Many years ago, Daigo of the Takeda clan arrived in Stonecrest. They weren’t sure where exactly he came from or who he was. All their eyes saw was a man who wanted to leave the past behind. Whatever Stonecrest asked of him, he would devote himself to a new life here among them. As the months passed, and his first winter there settled in, the residents eventually arrived at the truth. There were many names used for beings like him. In the common vernacular, a werewolf.

There was no need to fear him. They knew of werewolves, but they hadn’t often encountered them because there were few wolf settlements in Rettsuam and they were all in the southeast. They preferred to keep to themselves and live their peaceful existences: human and wolf. Both and neither.

Life was hard at first for Daigo who had always been curious about humans and their ways. Wolves did not tend animals, they hunted them. He struggled, but he caught on and persevered thanks to the patient tutelage of the villagers. He eventually found love. Love came in the form of Mariko who spun wool. Was a union between human and werewolf possible? Yes. Rare, but not unknown. From this union, Tetsuya arrived.

Life was simple but happy. The boy grew and experienced his first shift when he was roughly seven. He guided him and taught him all he knew. It was a accustomed sight for the people of Stonecrest to see two wolves of black fur plodding along as they made their way to the forest to hunt. The youth had an interest in being a samurai. Stonecrest was not suitable for such an endeavor and Daigo had long left his fighting days behind. At age 14, the boy was enrolled in a school in the capital city, an academy for those who would go on to serve the Daimyo. He stayed there for several years, only returning home during the winter, and trained in the art of the sword and in unarmed combat.

Tetsuya successfully graduated and earned the right to carry a katana. He called it Tsuki no Kiba otherwise known as Lunar Fang. It was a reference to the myth that werewolves shifted during the full moon, a notion long discarded by more enlightened people. He stayed, as was the custom, to train new cadets. Then a messenger from home arrived bringing news that none should hear.

The 23 year old man struggled to contain grief and rage as the elders recounted what had happened. In the night, a cacophony of struggle, death cries of a female human and a male wolf. Daigo, in wolf form, crawled out of the home. He only lived long enough to whimper, “My boy. My only boy.” A trail of blood headed west. West towards the Republic of Kolohe.

It had been three months since he left home. It was nighttime. His human belongings, clothing and sword, were safely stored in a nook by a stream surrounded by trees. With a plump hare in his maw, he headed back to camp. He had heard, in the town he had passed through two days before, of a werewolf attack. Several bodies savaged. The description matched the attack on his parents. After weeks of futile leads, he hoped he would find success.
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Raziax traveled light, as he usually did. His dappled grey mare carrying much of his belongings. Two wolf-dogs followed him. One patterned grey and white and the other solid white. His own face was covered by a hood and a dark snarling wolf oni mask covered his lower face. Leaving only his amber eyes to peer into the forest.

He was a very long way from home but truth was the hunter hadn’t been home in such a long time. His dogs walked a head of him. Noses to the ground as they followed a scent. He was hunting a rogue beast.

He adjusted the bow on his back, sliding it away from a low lying branch as he looked around. Suddenly his girls stopped and he tugged the reigns to stop his horse. Low growls let him know the wolf was close.

He quietly slid from his horse. “Stay ‘ere, eh?” He patted the mare’s neck before pulling his bow and loading an arrow. He moved through the brush quietly as he caught a glimpse of something big moving in the distance.

He whistled, the command sending the dogs to flank what he caught a glimpse of. “Oi! You th’wolf killin’ people? Iffen ya are, please don’t run. Hate it when they run.”
Tetsuya’s plan was to have his rabbit and maybe get some decent sleep for a change. Peaceful sleep was infrequent. Tormenting shadows of guilt crept inside his mind. Visions of irrational guilt. If only I was there. If only I had been there. Although the residents of Stonecrest were familiar with their wolf forms, forms as large as their human selves, Tetsuya was seen more often as a wolf. He wondered why his father was seemingly reluctant to shift. His father made his position clear, “Unless I am training you, no.”

The Takeda clan was once a reputable family. Honored among wolf families, its sigil of four diamonds was displayed prominently on banners. That was a lifetime ago. One day, historians would debate about what led to the decline of the clan. These days, the clan was spoken about with regret. Most disappeared into the forest, never resuming human form. Others discarded their names to become thieves or mercenaries. All that remained of the family, besides father and son, was a suit of armor buried beneath a great tree that seemed to touch the sky. One day, Daigo promised, he would take his son to unbury his birthright. “You carry the blood of Wolf Lord Ryota within your veins and one day one day you will wear his armor when you begin to serve the Daimyo.” The knowledge of the location died with the father, but the dream of finding it one day thrived in the son's heart.

Ryota's heir ambled back to to the alcove which made a suitable wolf den, temporary but welcomed. There were lifeforms nearby, unwelcomed. His nostrils flared: human, horse and two wolfdogs. Could he reach the den without notice? Could he get his stuff and retreat without notice? Before he could act, the wind shifted and it carried his scent towards the others. His ears flattened with concern.

He didn't fear the man. Rather he feared the animals. The wolfdogs could gang up on him. As for the horse, it might kick him. He had tried riding them at school, but they were very shy around him because they sensed the wolf within.

If I act with aggression, that would be certain death. If I am cooperative, I might live. "Muffle, muffle. Muffle, muffle." He tried to respond, but the rabbit was still in his mouth because he didn't want to give up his quarry. A paw shifted to enough of a hand to hold the animal so he could speak, "I have never killed a human before only sparred against them and even then, under supervision. I am coming out slowly so you may see, hunter, that I am not a threat to you. I will defend myself if need be, but I will do so as a man."

Tetsuya walked slowly out of the brush with the rabbit back in his mouth. He gently placed it upon the grass the man. With sad gold hued eyes, "You speak of a wolf killing humans. Know that a wolf killed my parents. Perhaps you might feel more comfortable if I get changed. My knapsack is in an alcove about twenty feet away by the stream." His snout pointed in the direction indicated and lowered to pick up his meal.
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The hunter narrowed his eyes on the man, whistling again. A different sharp tune, a command that brought his two dogs to flank the wolf. They were severely dwarfed by the werewolf's size but they didn't seem to take this into account as they both snarled and barked viciously at him. Though they held their ground. Not moving until their master told them to do so. His hose was just out of sight, though not terribly far away. The dappled mare held back, whinnying in worry but not coming closer. She was not a fighter, like the wolfdogs.

"Can't hear ya, mate, wif' a rabbit in ya mouth." He said before the wolf dropped his dinner to speak. He looked at the wolf close, trying to discern if this was his quarry. "No threat to me? S'pose not. Kinda got ya out numbered." He cheekily replied. But the wolf was amicable, cooperative even. What he had heard... this didn't fit his wolf. But he'd not let his guard down just yet. "Don't trust ya either way, but go on." He whistled again and his dogs moved in unison back at his side. Letting the other man move as he pleased. Though both dogs gave a few barks before complying.
I don't exactly trust you either. Although Tetsuya was young, he wasn't totally naive. He knew full well what he was and knew the reality. Except for the awakening, that first shift, a werewolf's will dictated the change. A dead werewolf, in wolf form, remained thus. The young man knew that there was a black market for werewolf fur. He imagined a nasty person chortling loudly as they lounged while his fur, dark as night, hung on the wall.

He slowly walked backwards into the brush, "Be right back. I'm going to change to get changed." Be quiet and make no noise. Do you hear it? It is the sound of bone and sinew flowing from one form to another. Subtle, but noticeable if you listen close enough. Painful? Not at all. People spread lies about my kind. No pain, no forced changes and certainly due to the moon, no infectious bite. Human-bodied Tetsuya rummaged though the knapsack and took out his clothes. First his underclothes, then pants of cobalt blue, and then tunic of light blue. A sash around his waist. He packed up his knapsack and strapped it to his back and slipped his sword in by his side. For now, his slightly longer than shoulder length hair remained unfurled.

Tetsuya came back to the clearing of the impromptu camp. What would one think of his human visage? He was cleanshaven, but that was not by choice. His face and chest was hairless unless he willed his fur to come out. His face radiated youthful attractiveness, but it was grimy. He knelt by the stream and washed his face. He looked as human as the other man except his human eyes still retained their lupine luster and sharp wolf teeth dwelled inside his mouth. He sat down cross legged, and studied the man wearing hood and wolf mask. Make a fire? If he did, its main purpose would be to provide warmth because he did not need to cook meat to eat it. No ill effects from eating raw meat for one such as he. I should offer even though he might already have some provisions. He held the rabbit up by the scruff, "If you want some for yourself or for your partners, I can tear some off."

Since leaving home, I've hardly spoken with anyone. Just asking for a room at the inn or food in a tavern. How should I introduce myself? "I am a wanderer. Call me Takeda."
In the dark it was hard to discern the color of the wolf before him. Unlike his late mother, he couldn’t see well in the dark. Didn’t have her wolf senses. No heightened hearing, smell or sight. But that’s what he had his dogs for. Still he didn’t want them close enough to confirm the smell. But when the wolf moved through the shadows, enough light hit his pelt that Raz realized… this wasn’t the wolf he was looking for.

He lowered his bow and huffed a sigh. Waiting for the man to return. When he did it was clear this wasn’t his quarry. No this one was too well… put together to be his quarry. He genuinely looked disappointed as he put his arrow back in the quiver.

The white wolf-dog growled lowly at the man as he sat cross legged. Raz gave a very sharp whistle. “None of that, eh? He’s not the one.” The white dog licked her lips and looked up at him. He looped the bow around his torso before placing his hands on his hips.

He looked up, a little surprised when the man offered part of his meal. It was kind. The rabbit was barely a mouth full for the werewolf. “I appreciate that mate, but I wont take ya dinner. These girls are well fed… a ken catch their own food.”

“Takeda? I’m Raziax. Or jus’ Raz.” His eyes were smiling as he reached down to pet his dogs. “Wouldn’t happen t’know this big bad wolf, would’ya?”

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