[As I’ve mentioned a bit, the majority of standalone stories from my new book, “I Despise Your Prophecy”, are going up on my Patreon. But the final edit’s almost done, and it’s consuming a lot of my time. And on re-reading this, I thought you might like it.
In case you need any background:
Porter is a werewolf.]
Everything, everything that the Wolves might consume was tainted with madness. The Order of White Wizards called it Evil, but Porter had (at the expense of great difficulty, lasting injury, some casualties, and a few highly inconvenient scars) managed to get close enough to bite one of those pasty-robed dingbats, and he was as batcrap bonkers as the rest.
Werewolves shift skins; they do not have the same relationship with flesh that most of us do. They were, therefore, very much interested by what went into their alimentary tract. It’s notable, for example, that when attacking, they frequently bite, but they often don’t chew. Porter reflected that this lovely feast must have been made almost entirely by magic, a feat which, while common in fairytales and other stories, was on par with erecting a massive stone monolith with primitive tools and a small population, or travelling several hundred miles in a single step: very difficult, and very costly. To produce a reasonable meal in this manner, one had to, among other things, have a master artisan create replicas out of fairly rare materials; and it helped to have a master chef present to oversee the process, as what you wanted, ideally, was to take each element, carve it into some semblance of its organic form as ingredient, then smash it all to bits, combine it in a pestle, and sprinkle the result, as a fine powder, over a newly-sculpted stone or glass representation of what you wanted to cook, and perform certain rather draining rites to transmute them from representations into actualities, using some bastardized version of the Law of Similarity.
And then, your chef would likely take real ingredients (squid ink, by the Gods?)—and massage the flavors until it tasted a little more like something born of nature, and a little less like the weird doppelgangers of actual comestibles which had gone into it.
It was possible to create something simpler and sustainable, but in general, all magic could really get right was coffee and small amounts of jerky. Magic preferred not to make food; that’s part of why what it did create was so extravagant, and why it could provide him with a very welcome meal for one, but couldn’t particularly feed the Pack. (Oh, given time, and skill, and experiment, Alice might create a new species of animal or try some other workaround these things were difficult, but there was precedent. But any living beings she made would be subject to the same considerations which troubled him in the first place; no good. If they had a few years to experiment…but neither Alice, nor the Wolves, had much time at all to spare, these days.)
That’s not to say that this repast, this the gesture, for one of his kind, was unappreciated, especially now. Which was good, considering the favor being asked of him.
The Dark Lord had told him to kill “everyone”, which was a cruel joke, and a very werewolf one. She actually wanted his kind to harry the forces of the White Wizards—their proxies—for a time, to snipe at their armies, to give them something to fear. But this was less an attack (if you take an infinite number of fools, and thin their numbers, you end up with a slightly smaller infinite number of fools) and more of a way to take a little heat off of her. In other words, she was asking them to be targets.
That wasn’t a bad role, for lycanthropes. They held little love for the self-righteous, and they were angry. But it was particularly difficult in a time when his people were famished.
They could eat almost nothing. It wasn’t just humanoids. The beasts of the forest (and the field, and everywhere else, for that matter) will flee from natural disasters, and if they’re in enough of a panic, you don’t want to make a practice of sinking your fangs into them; a species whose entire dignity and civilization rest on impulse control does not do well with great gaping mouthfuls of hyperadrenalized blood. And given the kindly propensity of humans for covering the entire planet with themselves, it was difficult not to stretch forth your canines and tear into some homo sapiens.
This meant that they would have to run among the human herd, slashing and tearing and not actually biting; to be among mountains of flesh when they all wanted food.
And this wasn’t just food; it was the meat of enemies, the sweetest substance known to fang.
But it was bubbling over with madness. You wanted to eat it; but you didn’t want to catch whatever insanity seemed to be leaping from body to body.
Werewolves were hungry by nature; it was a defining trait. But equally defining was the fact that the Werewolf was not—was never, if at all possible—an unthinking beast, but was, instead, a reasoning creature.
One could satisfy the beast, and lose one’s reason. It seemed that other species were all too eager to do so.
Wolves, by every God that’s ever been broken by disbelief, by every Hell that’s ever been drowned in sweat and tears, werewolves would goddamn rather starve.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.