Spirit of the Wolf: The Untold Story
Born to Hate
He didn’t like this, not one bit. The lone mountain was hauntingly beautiful despite the chill in the air, but given the circumstances that had brought him there, he couldn’t enjoy or appreciate any of it. Not the overlook of the distant valleys or the feeling of snow pressing down under his steps. He didn’t even take a moment to acknowledge the flawless shine set against the clear blue skies as it radiated from the frozen mountain peak ahead. He just marched on, still resentful that he had to be here.
His dark outfit made him stand out amid the bright snow, and his long black cape cleared the footprints he would’ve otherwise left behind. Overthinking, as he often did, the young man had come to the conclusion that what he was doing was both right and necessary. Yet, he couldn’t help but feel irritated by the fact that it was he who had been sent to do this task.
Did that anger make him selfish? His other troubles did seem small in comparison to his current mission, but if he admitted that, what would that mean in terms of his past decisions? He’d been torn between his duties and his personal goals many times since joining the Order, and the issue always infuriated him. At times, he worried that the only reason he was born was to hate. Still, he didn’t wish that anger away; instead, he had learned how to control its flame. He could redirect it. He could use it.
After all, he was the Wolf.
The task was simple. Difficult but simple: find the source, eliminate it, hopefully survive the experience. The last item on the list wasn’t vital for the mission’s success.
Wolf had no trouble finding tracks that led to his target, which was part of the reason he was chosen for the job. He was a fully trained hunter, the only one on the team. The same team he’d chosen to leave behind. After all, the High Council hadn’t ordered him to bring the others along. It was a risky move, going at it alone; he couldn’t know with certainty what waited for him up in the mountain, but he preferred doing things on his own.
It was getting colder the higher he climbed, but he didn’t mind. Yet another reason they’d turned to him with this task. Though his resistance to cold had its boundaries, it was still something that set him apart from the Order’s other operatives. He took slight pride in that, knowing that he didn’t possess many other natural gifts or talents worthy of mention. He had to struggle for everything else.
Recollecting his rigorous training at the hands of the Order, he kept moving. The peak wasn’t as threatening as it had first appeared. In fact, it was visibly reachable once he was clear of the half-frozen trees. What’s more, located near the top was an opening to a cave. The edges around it gave off a crystal blue light. He made his way toward it, but halfway there, a grey wolf approached him from the side, moving with careful but powerful grace.
If Wolf’s mask wasn’t covering the lower half of his face, the smile forming across his lips would’ve been visible. It wasn’t a common sight. Still, he couldn’t miss the irony of the situation. Not a single person he knew could’ve sneaked up on him like that.
The animal looked at the man, and Wolf eyed it in return. They weren’t measuring but judging each other. Observing. Searching for the soul—the spirit.
They seemed to reach an understanding, but when the man resumed his journey toward the cave, the animal quickly placed itself in his path. The movement was so fast, it caught the young man by surprise. That made for another uncommon expression on his face.
He pulled his hood down, letting his dark brown eyes reflect the light of the snow, but the animal only growled softly and showed its teeth.
There was a bow neatly compacted under the young man’s cape, hidden on his back. He could easily reach for it. He could throw a knife at the animal just as effortlessly, or withdraw his straight-bladed sword, which was cunningly concealed inside his staff. But it was not in his nature nor in his moral code to kill. Not a creature with a soul.
Therefore, he took out his staff. The weapon didn’t look like much more than a black pole, but with a knowing twist, Wolf expanded it on one end and doubled its length. He was probably most dangerous with staff in hands anyway. It was his primary weapon—his first choice. So, when the animal rushed at him, he stood his ground.
As expected, the grey wolf jumped, its fangs going for the neck. The young man deftly blocked the attack, and the animal’s jaws gripped his staff. There was nothing he could do to stop the claws from digging at his chest, but his uniform protected him enough to allow him to redirect the animal’s momentum and send it flying in the opposite direction.
The wolf stumbled for a few meters before getting back on its feet. As it rose, six more of its kin emerged from the frozen forest at its back. The man looked at the pack without surprise; it was no secret that wolves lived in groups. Only a few choose the path of the lone wolf.
Scenarios rushed through his mind. What if they all attacked him? What tools from his utility belt could chase them away? Could he use his cape against one of them? But they didn’t attack. They just looked at him as one, then slowly followed their leader back into the forest.
The leader he had stood his ground against.
Slayer of Zrazruhg
As he approached the cave, a blue and silver light coming from within captivated Wolf’s attention. The daylight reflecting off the ice walls inside seemed so clear and pure. If not for the eerie presence in the air, it would’ve been difficult to imagine that it came from something evil and corrupt.
Wolf popped out steel claws from the palm of his left glove and dragged them across his reflection in the ice. They barely left a mark; the icy wall was harder than concrete. He turned around and looked at the sky. Disappointed that the night wasn’t due for another few hours, he shook his head and wondered if he’d already witnessed his last sunset. Waiting wasn’t an option, however. Natural resistance or not, the cold would claim him if he stopped moving.
Taking in a deep breath, he turned his back to the sun and went into the cave.
The light bounced back and forth between crystallized walls of ice, illuminating his path. The ground was also covered with frost, and even though it was simple to walk upon, Wolf popped out the spikes on the bottom of his boots. They weren’t as dangerous as the claws on his left glove, but they would serve their purpose and keep him sure-footed. Preparation was half the battle—a rule without which he’d be dead a dozen times over.
Falling into a walking meditation, he kept his mind clear and journeyed deeper underneath the mountain. Bouncing rays of daylight grew dimmer as he went, but when they faded completely, a new source of light appeared at the other end of the tunnel. Shimmering, the distant light constantly shifted, as if mirrored from an unsteady surface of water. Yet, everything stood still; everything was frozen. The light itself was the only thing moving.
Wolf noticed the crystal walls gradually expanding. Wider and taller they spread, until finally, they formed a shape not unlike an interior of some great cathedral. He also noticed that the light wasn’t just reflected off the walls; it was trapped inside them. Trapped and trying to escape. It made him feel like he was in Under Realm and not on Earth.
He entered the spacious cavern, walking tall and with confident steps. There was a throne placed at the far end of it, and on that throne, a king. What little doubt he had regarding what was causing the uncanny climate change dispersed. A demon sat before him.
It was made of ice, but unlike the vibrant walls, the creature’s body was blue and grim, with a number of spikes sticking out menacingly. On his head, where eyes should have been, was a dark band that had black gas radiating from it. The creature also had something resembling a mouth, and when words came through it, the sound was like a twig freezing on winter’s coldest day, then cracking.
“A human . . .” The air itself became colder with the demon’s every word. “So weak, so fragile . . . have you come here to beg for your world’s salvation?”
The coldness began to grip at Wolf’s bones, but when he separated the blade from the rest of his compacted staff, blood rushed through his veins. He pointed the sharp end of his sword toward the creature and gave it his most serious look from under the shadows of his black hood.
“Aahhh,” it said, though it sounded more like a strong wind than a voice, “a brave hero!” The edge of the demon’s mouth turned up in a mocking smile. “Here to kill the fearsome monster and bring peace to Earth!”
It stood up, its face suddenly terrible. “Foolish boy! I have not awakened from my slumber to be ridiculed! Not even my father could contain my wrath. Even he, the mighty Zrazruhg, the bringer of the ice age, fell before me! What chance does a poor human have?”
As the creature raged on, Wolf examined the area, considering his options. He found strange relief in the fact that the monster wasn’t much taller than him. He also wondered if the demon truly had a father, or if that was just how demons thought of their predecessors.
“I could end your miserable life faster than you can draw a breath. Or better yet, I can prolong the agony and freeze you piece by piece! However, seeing how I have time on my hands . . . I’ll offer you a deal. Go back to where you came from and bring an army here. Don’t bring dozens, bring hundreds! It will make things more interesting for me. And you? Well, you will have the luxury of false hope.”
Wolf could’ve come up with an intelligent comeback in response—such a thing would have come naturally to Nemo—but the vigilante had always been lazy with words. Instead, he rushed the demon and jumped with his sword pointing at the creature’s neck.
The attack was blocked, of course, but it mattered little either way. The sharp blade of Wolf’s chokuto could hardly harm the frost creature. Still, he slashed at it, moving his sword with deadly precision, all the while evading the demon’s counterattacks. The young man was faster and more skilled in combat than the demon, but it wasn’t enough to make him victorious.
Many blows were exchanged between the man and the demon, so many that the battle seemed much longer than the few minutes it actually lasted. When Wolf’s blade finally shattered against the wintry enemy, he took a few steps back. The demon had fewer spikes on its body, but that didn’t seem to make any difference.
“Exhausted yet?” the demon teased with delight.
It got a flying piece of the sword as a response.
The hilt and what remained of the blade bounced off the creature’s face. “No!” The demon pressed disfigured hands against its dark band. Wolf knew the attack hadn’t inflicted any harm, but the demon clearly couldn’t help but mock him for the attempt. “My sight! How will I ever see again?” it exclaimed. Then it released a terrible laugh.
The little theatrical show worked in Wolf’s favor, however. His sword throw was never meant to cause damage; it was just a distraction. Something to make sure there was enough time for him to pull out his bow and prepare an arrow.
It was at times like these that Wolf was glad he always carried the leg quiver on him. Sure, it was extra weight and made certain things more difficult, but if it meant a chance for a winning shot, it more than balanced out such flaws. He tapped on the surface of the sophisticated quiver, then picked up the arrow that emerged from its top.
Before the demon had a chance to look back up, Wolf fired the special arrow toward its throat. He hit his mark, and the creature looked at him with genuine amazement as the arrowhead burst and released fiery acid. The liquid started to burn at the demon’s throat, slowly working its way through the thick ice the creature had in place of flesh.
Wolf sent another trick arrow flying, but it froze in midair, hit the ground, and shattered. The demon pulled out the first arrow from its throat, and the acid slowly stopped burning before turning to ice as well.
Having hoped that the chemical would last at least a few seconds longer against the creature, Wolf frowned. This was bad. He needed a new plan. He was fast at improvising, really fast, but at that moment, he wasn’t fast enough.
With a terrifying expression on its face, the demon released a blast of cold air at Wolf. He ran away from it, but the demon commanded the wind to follow him. He then tried to shoot a grappling line at the ceiling, but the grappling mechanism on his right glove was frozen, just like his quiver. Just like the edges of his cape, the bottom of his boots . . . soon, ice covered his entire body. He was frozen, trapped, no different from the light in the walls.
He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Everything grew dark. And the only thing he could feel was the sharp pain of coldness.
Heat of a Different Kind
His consciousness remained, but he knew it wouldn’t linger for much longer. He would either suffocate or freeze to death. There wasn’t much time left, and though Wolf didn’t waste it on panicking, he couldn’t help but spend it on hate.
He wasn’t even supposed to be here. It was never part of his plan; it wasn’t even his decision. He’d had no choice in the matter. This was something thrown upon him, indifferent to his own battles. They had ruined everything. Those around him always ruined everything.
Anger quickly turned into rage, and his wrath made him forget about the coldness in his bones. It wasn’t enough, though. He was going to die. It comforted him that he had programmed his uniform to monitor his brain waves. Once he was gone, a signal would travel back to Krus, and from his lair underneath the city, another message would be sent—one meant for Nemo and the Elite, giving them the demon’s location.
He’d come close to stopping the creature, and he was just one member of the Order. The Elite knights? They would make short work of it. Probably wouldn’t even break a sweat. So, in the long run, the mission would be a success and the world spared of a new ice age. Yet, he could find no peace in it. He was still furious at everything. At the High Council, the Order, the world.
Now, he would never finish what he’d started. Never see another sunset. Never again stand atop his favorite rooftop in Krus. The one overlooking a certain window . . .
Memories filled his thoughts. Important memories, dear memories; he had only a few. I didn’t even say goodbye . . .
At that thought, a heat of a different kind emerged within him.
Anger and this new wave of energy gave him strength. He wasn’t going to surrender. Not now, not yet. He still had unfinished business. I didn’t even say goodbye! And he’d be damned if some layer of ice was about to stop him.
He directed all his remaining energy into one action, not for a moment letting go of the memories that sustained him. The ice around his right hand began to crack as his fingers moved, and not a full second later, the surface on his upper body started to warm up. Heat spread from the emblem of the Order on his chest, and soon the ice around him began to melt. Then crack.
Reason and Focus
The demon stood there, clearly baffled. Likely, by all his knowledge of humans, the young man before him shouldn’t be able to break free like that. He should be dead.
Wolf fell to his knees and placed his hands on the ground. He took deep breaths and forced his inner energy to circle around his vital organs before spreading to the rest of his body. The mask helped by warming the air he took to his lungs. It also kept his breathing regular. When he’d gathered his strength, he lifted his head and gave the demon a look of pure defiance.
Acting out of instinct, or perhaps fear, the demon sent another blast of coldness his way. The attack was different this time; it manifested itself more as a ray than wind, and Wolf lifted his right arm to stop it from hitting him in the face.
Ice formed around his fist and forearm, but he didn’t even flinch. The frost demon stopped and once again observed the man, keenly this time, as if trying to see something hidden beneath his skin. Recognizing the time to strike, Wolf released a grunt that filtered through his mask and came out as a subtle roar. He rushed the creature from his crouching position. Anger provided him with endurance; thoughts and memories instilled him with focus. Both gave him strength.
Wolf smacked the demon using the hand claimed by ice, and to his surprise, the demon fell to the ground. A crack formed on the side of its disfigured face where he’d punched him. Of course . . . A plan formed in his mind.
He swiftly manipulated his inner energy and prepared to perform an open-palm strike with his free hand. He’d always favored that move. It was powerful, direct, and perfected only by a few. Wolf’s staff master had been among those few, and effortlessly recalling his lessons, the vigilante placed all his energy behind his strike and sent the demon flying into a crystallized wall the moment the creature got back on its feet.
Not giving the monster a chance to recover, Wolf pressed on it with his left arm and unleashed a flurry of punches with his right. The room started to shake, and deadly icicles started to fall from above. The more he bashed the demon, the more the room shook. Lethal pieces of icy stalactites were falling all around them, some crashing while others pierced the ground.
One could argue that it was luck that kept the falling spikes from killing the man. One could say that the vigilante was so outraged that he didn’t even notice the deadly threat. But as unlikely as it seemed, Wolf knew exactly what he was doing. If he had chosen any other place to pin down the demon, he would’ve been dead by now. It was all part of the plan.
After dozens of hits, the ice around his right arm finally shattered. He paused for a moment to glance behind him. Perfect. Dazed, the demon waved his fractured head weakly, not unlike a drunken person would, and remained standing on its feet only because Wolf’s arm was pressing its body hard against the wall.
Wolf still couldn’t feel his right hand, but he could move it. That was enough. He gripped the creature by its thick shoulder spikes and spun both the demon and himself around. He popped out his claws just to ensure his grip remained firm, then used all his remaining strength to raise the demon over his head and impale it on a large stalactite that had survived the fall. The sharp point of the ice pierced through the demon’s chest, and the creature released its last terrible shout.
The shaking stopped.
No blood came from the lifeless sack of frost, just dark smoke that slowly fell to the ground, dispersed in all directions, then vanished. Wolf looked at what remained of the creature. It didn’t seem more than a peculiar formation of ice and snow. The demon’s head was bashed, with a good part of its jaw missing; its chest was cracked all around the large icicle; and its eyes were emptied of blackness. It was just ice now. Nothing more.
When Wolf felt the air around his forehead getting warmer, he decided to leave. Soon, everything the wicked creature had formed would melt, and the throne room would cave in. The job was done. The threat was over.
By the time he got outside, an hour yet remained until sunset. He shook snow and ice off his cape and decided to wait for it. It wasn’t long before the white layer of snow around him became slushy, and water started running down the mountain. It was the middle of summer, after all. Before the sun met the distant lands on the horizon, enough snow had dissolved to reveal a large stone near him. Wolf sat atop it and calmly appreciated the view.
He supposed that Nemo wasn’t the only demonslayer on the team anymore, but the title held little value to him. The Elite knights didn’t even know the Voice of the Council had approached Wolf with this mission, and he had no plans to concern them with it now that the job was done. Meanwhile, the High Council and their Voice would likely keep the events of this day on a need-to-know basis. Admiring the vanishing sun, he was at peace with that too.
He didn’t mind the vigilance. Not one bit.
Wolf had a long journey back, and the battle hadn’t left him unharmed. Bruises and cuts didn’t bother him much; he was used to them. Minor frostbite, however, was something new that he could add to his ever-growing list of acquired injuries. Still, he managed to force himself to ignore it.
The high fever was what troubled him the most. It took him three full days to find the proper roots in the forest and return a steady temperature to his body. Until then, he had hallucinations during the day and nightmares at night.
Yet not even his darkest dreams could’ve prepared him for what awaited him back home.
THE END OF
SPIRIT OF THE WOLF
- The Untold Story -
Wolf's journey continues in Order of the Spirits: Fragments!