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She-Wolf: Prologue - The Death of Efran Keats from Threska Tetherfang's blog

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With little sleep and no food, Efran Keats was growing weaker by the hour. The she-wolf was gaining on him despite his attempts to drive her deeper into Silverpine Forest for the past four days. He couldn’t risk longer than a few moment’s respite to catch his breath, and any sound sent him on his feet again. Unless he could find a regiment to rejoin or someplace to hide, the orc was going to kill him for what he and the others had done to the two women. The wolf had been purely out of drunken sport, but the two women? That had been Hackett’s idea, and one Efran regrettably took part in.


As he ran, the thought crossed his mind more than once that the orc would follow him to the ends of Azeroth. It sent his fatigued legs churning faster over the thick, pine-riddled forest floor. How far behind she was, he had no idea. She only had one, maybe two arrows, along with hands and tusks and Tholbor’s axe, but he knew how she fought, weakened as she was. She could snap his neck with little effort. Orsond could attest to that. Tholbor had been made acquainted with his own axe; Rollan, her teeth. It was Hackett he wasn’t sure of. They split up days ago, though he was sure he’d seen a Worgen running among the trees in the same general direction.


Efran slid down the side of a shallow riverbed. He was filthy and covered in the blood of his friends. Each time he took a breath his ribs squeezed leaving him near to passing out. The wound to his abdomen was beginning to stink with infection. The skin, once as pink as a newborn’s backside, now appeared like a spider web, purple and angry.


With night closing in, Efran knew he could only go so far before it got too dangerous trying to run in the dark. He stumbled into the thick mulch of leaves of the dried up riverbed, and found an opening where the earth formed a small cave no bigger than a man’s body lengthwise. He crawled in and almost screamed. The pressure on his broken ribs was excruciating as he tried to lay on his back, side, then other side. No matter which way he laid there, his eyes clouded with tears, his breath fast and shallow. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and went to shimmy his way back out, she-wolf be damned, when the pain in his abdomen and ribs sent him bolt upright and straight into the root-riddled roof of the cave, knocking him out.


He awoke some hours later to the crunch of dried leaves followed by the sound of heavy breathing. Efran laid against the cramped cave wall trying to hear over the rush of blood in his ears. There came a high, drawn out whine, then two lower grunts. Efran sank down in relief at the familiar call of an elk as more calls picked up in the distance.


“Come on then,” he whispered to himself. He rolled to the side, breath hitching, wound screaming, and crawled out from the cave. The world swam beneath his hands. He lost his stomach, which frightened off the elk. His last thought was how lovely the moon looked through the trees before body met ground.


Efran sat up on his knees having passed out again. His lip was busted where he fell face first into a rock obscured by leaves. His head ached something awful, but not so bad as the wound to his side. With clammy hands, he lifted his shirt to get a good look. The purple web spread farther, wrapping around his already blackened rib cage and up his chest. The wound itself was ragged, raw in some areas. It smelled worse than the day before and was beginning to leak sticky green goo.


“Gah,” he said, letting his shirt fall. “Blood’s poisoned." He felt the curious sensation of something wriggling beneath the skin just then. "An’ maggots too. Damn.”


Looking around, he found a branch that he quickly broke into smaller pieces. He took his tattered shirt off, then placed a broken piece of wood between his teeth. With one hand at the wound, he used the other to poke the raw skin. Again the urge to pass out hit him, but he bit down on the stick, breathing like a colt off a run through his nose. He squeezed the wound between his finger, while doing his best to pop open the black scab which had formed over a good portion of the wound.


“Fuck me, it stinks,” he hissed through the stick. He drove the other into the tiny opening like a crowbar, prying the scab free. Quickly the wound bubbled with blood and pus. He used his shirt to dab at it so he could see the damage the knife had done. A little clump of white wriggled as soon as the area was wiped. For all he could tell, there was just one large maggot, but driving his fingers into the wound, he found himself to be mistaken. Damn the Light. Maggots and a lot of them too, just like he thought. He spit out the stick, looking around.


If the orc didn’t kill him, the wound would. Struggling to his feet, he took a moment to weigh his options just as his stomach let out a loud growl. When was the last time he’d eaten?


“Days and days ago,” he said out loud to himself. His stomach growled again, louder this time. Much too loud to be hunger pangs.


He froze.


Leaves crunched behind him.


Efran turned around slowly, his hands held out away from him, and met the cold, cloudy eyes of a Worgen and the orc who wore him.


The woman was covered in blood and ichor, with clinging clumps of dirt and leaves and the remains of Hackett’s entrails. The body–no, the pelt–hung over her shoulders almost comically, as if the Worgen was merely wrapping his arms and lupine head around her from behind. The glassy eyes stared at nothing, already turning with decomposition. She had managed to use one of their large cloth sacks as a makeshift wrap, and he recognized the torn fabric of Rollan’s shirt she had knotted around her breasts.


“Oh bloody Light,” Efran said. He cupped the wound at his side with a wheeze. “Look, this wasn’t my idea. None of it was. It was Hackett’s. I told ‘im we should 'ave left you and the Forsaken bitch alone. But he damn well wouldn’t listen…and Orson and Rollan said we’d all take turns, and–”


The orc screamed at him suddenly. He couldn’t understand a word she was saying, but it didn’t take a fluent tongue in Orcish to know he was being cursed at. She prowled like the wolf she was wearing, her large green hands gripping the bow and Tholbor’s axe so tightly he was able to see the white of her tattooed knuckles. She pointed at him with the bow, waved the axe at him, her voice thick and throaty. He could just make out the near empty quiver strapped to her back.


He slid a foot behind him, but her hawk’s eyes were immediately drawn to the subtle movement. Light damn him, he was tired and weak. He held his hands out before him to show he was unarmed, but all this elicited was more cursing.


“I don’t bloody know what you’re saying!” He looked around and found the rock he’d fallen on the night before. She seemed to follow his line of sight and fuck him, she grinned at him. That she wore half the face of his friend only made it worse.


She barked something at him, pointing with the axe at the rock. When he didn’t understand, she shouted at him and pointed again.


“Pick it up. Pick it up?” Why he complied, he didn’t know, but with shaking hands he did his best to pick up the rock without passing out. His wound squelched with blood and pus when he bent down.


The orc seemed satisfied he’d done as he was told. She slid Hackett’s pelt from her shoulders and let it fall with a sickly thud. Two arrows were loose in the quiver, the only two she’d manage to scalp when she finally broke free. Then she tossed the axe down beside her. As if knowing it was now fair game, she swept leaves over the blade with her barefoot, effectively removing it from sight. Finally, she withdrew one of the arrows and nocked it.


Efran looked to the rock in his hand, then to the woman. It took him a moment, but realization dawned on him as she tested the bow string. “You won’t kill me without a weapon,” he said out loud. “You won’t bloody kill me without a weapon in my hand!”


The bow dropped a little. She stared at him, a feral she-wolf of olive-green skin and reddish eyes. The remnants of her once long hair, were plastered to the sides of her face and head. Hackett had thought to humiliate her by chopping off the sleek black mane. He had braided it and used the rope as a gag when she wouldn’t stop screaming.


Efran gulped back the foul memory, squeezing the rock. His legs were starting to tremble, they were so weak. He closed his eyes and asked for forgiveness from the Light as he pulled back an aching arm and let the rock fly. It landed with a thud in the leaves barely some distance away.


That was all the orc needed.


She twisted her body to the side and aimed down the arrow shaft. Efran did his best to stand up straighter. With his arms to either side he faced her openly, and lost his bladder.


Run.


Efran winced as if he’d been hit by the force of her word. Was he shot? Did he hear her right? He risked a peek to see no arrow sticking from his body. The only pain he felt was the white hot burn of infection coursing through his bloodstream.


The orc snarled at him and spoke again. “Run!


She was speaking Common! Efran stood there disbelieving his own ears. It took him a moment for his mind to catch up with the rest of his body, but soon he was twisting around on the balls of his feet and sprinting down the riverbed. His side immediately hitched up in the pain. He almost lost his footing. Behind him, the orc screamed the word over and over, her heavier strides crunching the leaves as she readied a shot.


“Oh fuck me–”


As sudden as a flash of lightning, his chest blossomed red with blood from the arrow shot straight through him. He fell forward from the momentum, tumbling hand over head. His vision turned dull and gray in the shock of it all. Then he could see the riverbed and leaves beneath him coated red.


“Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgivemeforgiveme.” His tongue felt heavy and dry as he struggled to speak and breathe, to think at the same time. He reached behind him to grab the arrow in desperation, his fingers failing him. Pitifully, he tried to crawl forward.


The orc drew near him with a sigh. She poked him gently with the bow once, twice. Then she pushed him flat onto his belly with her foot and somewhere in the back of Efran’s mind he realized she was straddling him. Her fingers curled through his hair like those of a lover’s before his head was pulled up and back. His Adam’s apple bounced like a fishing bobber each time he struggled to take in a choking wet breath. Against his cheek she pressed the cold iron of Tholbor’s axe.


She spoke to him and repeated some phrase his mind vaguely remembered. Something she’d said each time Hackett or the others took turns with her in the strange language of her kind. As his vision began to wane once more, Efran fixated on the woman’s butchered accent as she spoke Common again. "No… more…,“ it sounded like. ”No more."


"Forgive-”

The air seemed to still around them as the blade of the axe slid solid across his throat. His eyes bulged in surprise at the movement, then the light faded from them with the last of his breath.


Efran Keats was dead.


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