When the word comes to mind people cannot help but think red necks, beer bellies and trucker caps all spilling out of pick-up trucks.
It truly is a disgrace to the title of Hunter. A true hunter is at one with nature. They do not kill to boast. What we take from nature we know we will one day be returned to. We know when to kill and when to let live. However, the world has changed. Men hunt with ravenous and gluttonous hunger. They kill the buck, the doe and the fawn giving the meat to the dogs and boasting of their “skills”. I do not doubt some skill is reserved for the power of a rifle, but as I have watched humanity they do not hold truth, honor and conviction anymore. They do not hold the title hunter, and they disgrace the good name of the hunt. The forest pains as man continually encroaches into it like a plague withering all it touches. I have hunted these forests since I was young, though I always treated the forest with the respect that it demands as my provider. My family could walk amongst the deer and wolves without disturbance, they saw us as a part of the forest just as they are. Only when we required food would we hunt or forage. Those who respect the forest know that it will provide for them.
Me and my family lived the life of those who live off the land. Sure when it was a little town, the founders had an active community that lived here. Legends held claim that our original founders made deals with druids and shamans who convened with the spirits of the forest, bringing fortuitous crops. But with time people sought more for themselves and left the little town for the cities in the distance. Promised wealth, work and more they all left for the city. Whole generations and bloodlines of long well known names all succumbed to the temptations of the machine of society as it grew.
Years later all that remained was my family. We held to the land knowing the poison of greed was quite pungent in the words of those who told us to leave. We continued with our way of life. Away from the world, we continued our “barbaric” traditions and always honored the forest and those that had taught us our ways long past. Our family held deepest regard for our family heirloom, The pelt of a great creature which did not exactly resemble anything we could make out, but our family history held that our druidic ancestors wore it while they convened and when they went to battle. Berserker. That was what they were called in war times. No injury was great enough to stop them and they channeled into the inner beast with feral ferocity.
Continually people came and continually we would not sell or relocate so they could build “malls” and “highways”. The government began to try and sanction off portions of land claiming it had been improperly measured. At first we reluctantly agreed to the transgressions, but as we watched our land shrinking more and more we realized the deceit at hand. My father did not know what to do when one day a young man came to our door with his assistant. They both were young enough to be my age, but they spoke professionally as though they were wisened by years. They introduced themselves as the Verborgeneyite’s and asked politely to enter our home and speak with us. My father agreed, slightly suspicious as to the intentions of the two. They sat in our hearth speaking in regards to the land rights and my father was about to angrily tell them to leave when the man said, “You’ve been lied to.” My entire family silently gazed at the two as he continued, “Now, with a legal team and several conservation groups we are moving to have the lands reclaimed and redistributed to the forest, which is now protected land.” His eyes fell on the pelt. “Your… house has historical and traditional value which should never have been infringed upon. And so we are moving for reimbirsement for the troubles your family has had to deal with as tou have been heckled and cheated constantly. With your permission of course, I would like to move forward with the case and remove the stain that man has put onto the forest and your home.” I thpught his choice of words awkward, but my father straight faced said, “Sir, if you get those men off the forests land and make a way that they will not come back, any reimbursment recieved is yours. We are simple people we do not care for money, but peace? Peace is priceless.” And with that the man extended a hand. My father shook it. “Before I go, that pelt… what is it?” My father looked at it and smiled. “My great grandfathers cloak worn in times of war and times of peace.” His smile disappeared though. “My forefathers would be ashamed of me letting the forest be devoured by those locusts of the city.” The man put a hand on my fathers shoulder and sincerely said, “No, sir. Your ancestors are proud of you. You have upheld your traditions.” My father turned away from looking at the pelt and looked to this man and I saw in his eyes that he saw something in the man as he looked surprised and dare I may even say afraid for a moment, but then seriousness regained in his posture and he shook the man’s hand heartily once more. After a short while the man and his assistant left.
A year passed, the man constantly coming by, updating us on the situation. His case was looking promising, when right in the middle of a dinner when there came a knock at the door. My sister answered the door to a man dressed in incredibly wealthy made clothes. His own assistant following closely. The man looked to us smiling introducing himself as Mr. Landerbilt his eyes glistening with a certain nefarious intent. A rat-like smile cracked his otherwise pig-shaped head. He took a few steps within and asked, if he may speak with us pardoning the later hour. My father looked to him with seriousness as he nodded. “Well, several judges found that the land has in deed been unfairly divided and that the land is largely belonging to you however a portion of the land was improperly surveyed and so will be returned to governmwnt property. Several documents were procured to prove this point and recent surveyors point to the majority of the land being neglected and in need of either complete reconstructive efforts or that the area is so badly damaged that it should simply be leveled and redesignated. Even all three of the conservation groups you were working with have formed in agreement.” Withdrawing some paperwork he read aloud. “It also says here that you will no longer be represented by the (he clearly had trouble pronouncing.) “Verborgeneyites” as they have seemingly disappeared. (He sounded oddly satisfied with this.) Now, the company has authorized me to renegotiate the terms of our deal and they now offer double that initial offer!” It was like he was waiting for a reaction that never came. “Double… per square foot….” “Sir.” My father began. “You can leave now.” The man could not believe what he had heard. “But,sir thats…” before he could even finish. “We do not want your company’s damned money! Now get out of my house or my sons will help you out. The man looked to us and heeded this warning. The next day three men came to the door warning my father this was his last chance, to take the offer made and leave. My father declined and words were exchanged. There was a scuffle however these city going folk were no match for men who held fast to nature. After me, my two brothers and my father threw the men out into the cold night one called out, “YOU’LL REGRET THIS!” And then they got into their vehicles and departed. Two days later while I was out tending to our cows I heard the explosion of a gun going off. Soon followed by screaming and more gunshots. I had run as fast as I could from the barn to get to the house taking with me my bow and an axe. I only arrived as they pulled my little sister out of the house screaming and crying alongside the bodies of my mother, father and brothers. She was only fourteen, but they had planned to slake more than just bloodlust. They tore at her clothes, but before the man atop her could do anything I loosed a well placed shot that ripped through his throat. Blood spattered all over and he fell to the ground clutching the arrow while gurgling. My sister tried crawling away as the other men began aiming in my direction. I quickly loosed another arrow hitting a man squarely in the chest. He fell as the other took his shot. I felt the bullet, but I kept going. As I fell to a kneeling position I still loosed and made my mark. The arrow flew right into his eye as he was lining up his next shot. He fell to the ground twitching lightly. The only sounds heard at this point were from one man groaning, another gurgling from the blood he was choking on. I fell upon them with my axe cleaving the man who clutched the arrow embedded in his chest until all pieces of him rested unmoving. I dropped the axe and went to my sister limping from my injury, but otherwise fine.
She had taken shelter behind a decent sized boulder and as I came around the corner of it she came at me with a rock. I caught her hand in the nick of time and as she realized it was me. She dropped the rock and hugged me close. Tears flowing down her face, she asked, “Are they dead?” I nodded. “They’re dead…. All three of them.” She stopped hugging me and faced me. “There were four.” I heard the shot as it took the entire top of her head clean off. Blood washed over me. And this sickening feeling came over me as her body collapsed. My insticts and my fathers lessons spun me around as I faced the last gunmen. His shot altered the path of mine as I loosed an arrow striking his shoulder. I ran at him screaming in rage as he was about to line up a shot when I tackled him through the doors of our house. Inside I saw a fire had been started, but I was more focused on the man I was beating to a bloody shuddering mess. He was grasping around for anything to assist him in escaping my assault. He found a log from the hearth and he hit the side of my temple with all the force he had. I fell to the side dazed and feeling blood trickling down my face then I felt him grab me and he threw me into the fire. The fires quickly consumed my hair and lapped at my bare flesh. I was encompassed in flame and pain was trying to take my senses, but they would not. I focused on the man as he ran outside and just as he passed a window I burst through it tackeling him once more. Glass shards embedded themselves in my flesh and flames continued to eat away at me. But I would not give in to them, not until one last task had been done. I held him down with one hand and I felt empowered as with my other hand I ripped a long jagged piece of glass from my shoulder and forced it down I stabbed him in the gut and ripped it out again to go for another stab just ad he caught my hand and he held me back shortly. Perhaps he figured the still burning flames would stop me. No. I bared my teeth as blood dripped from my charred lips down to his agonizing face. Red glistening and dripping from the thick glass shard that cut into my own hand. His strength wavered and the glass stabbed into him again. I withdrew and stabbed again and again and again. When his screaming stopped I still continued. When the glass broke I tore into his rib cage with my bare hands. Only once I finally grasped his dead heart and ripped it out was I satisfied. All of them were dead… All four of them.
I was coated in red, sticky, coagulated blood as I watched the flames consume my childhood home and eventually die out. But I didn’t die. Why wouldn’t I die? I was in so much pain. Injured, burned and I should have long bled out.
Eventually I grew impatient for death and went to the barn and got a wheelbarrel and a shovel. I went and gathered my family’s bodies and took each one into the woods to a place considered to be where the shamans and druids would convene with the spirits. It felt the only place where there souls could rest. With the forest, away from humanity. I buried them around an old Willow tree.
Afterwards I went back to let the cows and other farm animals out so they could escape. No sense in leaving them to starve. As I passed the barn I went into the charred remains of my home one last time reminiscing on all my life experiences here and knowing that no further generations would be raised under this hearth. I probably would have shed a tear, but I couldn’t feel it if I did. As I passed to leave I saw it. The ancestral hide cloak my family kept. I went over and pulled it from the charred rafter that it was suspended from. Amazingly the fire had left in unscathed. I would not let a keepsake of this nature fall victim to time’s neglect or the vandals that would soon come and decided to bring it to my fathers resting place. Placing it over myself I left with one last reminiscent glance.
I entered into the deep forest under the moon’s light passing under the strangely comforting brushes of the willow’s low hanging leaves. I suddenly felt so tired, I half laughed. “Do you come for me now reaper? Am I fulfilled?” I smirked, but could not deny the rest being demanded of my body as I lay my axe to the side and slumped next to the willow. I reached to take the hide off of myself so that I may respectfully leave it before my father’s grave, but it would not come off as my eyelids flickered closed and I fell into sleeps embrace.
I awoke briefly and saw the most gorgeous pale she wolf you ever laid eyes on. And even in the darkness of night, the moonlight illuminated her figure like an angel descending as she came through the clearing. She sat in front of me. I smiled as best I could. Now that she was fully in my view, her beautiful coat was made far more majestic in the glow of the moonlight streaming through the trees. And you could just get lost in those amber eyes looking at me… no… looking into me… I felt the cold of death creeping over me. Those eyes still looking into mine. I then saw as the wolf began convulsing, growling and whining then bones started popping and shifting. Slowly I watched the form of the she wolf twist and contort until a beautiful young woman sat before me in the n**e wearing only the pelt of a pale wolf. I was awestruck, but death’s cold was calling and my eyes began to flit open and closed. A light fog was beginning to appear blurring my vision. I saw her drawing close. She then said something. “Hunter, Berserker, you are worthy of the mantle.” She then leaned in close and kissed my paling lips. It felt as though her tongue had entered my mouth and deposited something within….
Then the darkness enveloped my senses all together….
Leaves blew past as the night air churned through the forest.
The trees lightly groaned.
Crickets and frogs began their songs.
Five fresh graves lie around the Willow.
One pale corpse eyes lightly open a slight grin on its face.
My eyes shot open wide.
“HUUUUH!!!!” I deeply inhaled.
My whole body felt as if it were electric. I felt life entering my dead body. My heart beating at an elevated rate.
I felt as if bones were cracking and twisting. My flesh swelling. Splitting. My screaming became a roar.
I sat there shuddering as the nights breath passed through my fur.
My senses teemed and the night lit up to me.
I could smell the air off the mountains. Hear the river roaring in the distance.
I could see the forest in all its glory.
I placed a single clawed hand upon the trees bark and rose to standing. I walked to the small brook that flowed next to the willow tree and I gazed awestruck at the reflection laying before me. I was covered in fur, fur similar to that of the hide that I had worn. I was like a mixture of a bear, a wolf and a man. I stumbled backwards and found I had a long bushy tail like that of a wolf. I then heard a voice. I looked around and saw no one, but then upon looking into the night sky I saw her. That same silver entity as it descended down before me. She came down to me and placed a single hand to my face and I felt as though I had known her all along, I lived for her, I would die for her. She simply gazed into my eyes and said, “Guard this place.” And she faded from sight. I sat there for a little while as I became aware of my senses once more. Then I picked up on another sense one that began as insignificant, but as I smelled it… I ran through the woods trees ripping past at first running on two legs, then I bounded on all four. I came to the outskirts of my new home to see the charred remains of my old home. I ran through the tall grass to the bodies of the dead men. I could not deny it… this calling… this… hunger…
I had acquired a new taste one sweeter than any meal I had ever had. And the aroma that rose from this flesh was simply demanding of me as I devoured the corpses of these men I had some semblance of my humanity come forward as I looked into these cold dead eyes…
I heard a noise and looked as two flaming irises peering at me from the tall grass and a razor sharp grin appeared.
“I know where more are.”
Two construction workers sat at the site with their foreman as he began eating a hearty meal. The area had changed with time as much of the debris had been cleared away from the ruined old house.
The female worker spoke up.
“You ever wonder who used to live here?”
The foreman did not even look away from the food he was eating.
“Why not? I mean look at the building materials that were used. This stuff has to be at least 100 years old.”
“Look, I don’t get paid to think about anything more than clearing all this s**t out of here. And the company doesn’t like people gabbing when they could be working.”
The male worker gazed at the descending sun as he spoke.
“Aren’t you even curious about how this is the fifth company to buy this land and do nothing with it?”
“How would you know how many companies have bought this land and worked with it? You aren’t that old kid. And now I want to know why you two offered me this free meal. I know you guys just signed on, and those other two workers didn’t show today, but don’t think you two lovebirds can pay me off to allow you guys to slack off or spend your time doing… “other things”. And why aren’t you two eating?”
Nathanael smiled as the sun no longer broke over the land. Gazing over at Stacy. He eyed her elegant serpentine form as she smiled revealing those dagger-like teeth tucked within.
“We already ate.”
The foreman did not mind as the food was delicious and he could see the true form of the two sitting with him, but that led to another question.
“Why is there still so much food then?”
Stacy began to curl up with Nathanael.
“Oh, we’re expecting a friend to drop by.”
The foreman stopped briefly.
“No one other than employees with the company are allowed on the premise. You know that guys.”
Nathanael lightly laughed as he nuzzled Stacy.
“Oh, we won’t be long.”
Nathanael had a light twinge of humor course through his mind.
“Hey, Jack. You ever heard about shapeshifters or tricksters?”
Just then Nathanael and Stacy’s keen senses heard the roar coming up out of the forest.
“Eh, nevermind. I’m pretty sure my friend is almost here and I wouldn’t want to cut a story short.”