Here is the short story I wrote that got me accepted into my English Masters program.
Meditation took his mind off his troubles and gave him focus. Sure it was focus on the nothing but it was focus nonetheless. And when a man spends years isolated in a mountain cavern he needs that. That was Mace’s lot in life—wasting away alone. It was his punishment for failing his people decades ago by letting the die.
He was still haunted by the memories of failing his people and letting them be slaughtered by the werewolves of the northern waste. Wolves who had lied to him when he had accepted their offer of peace. To Mace the memories were still vivid but came in waves. Growling snapping teeth that salivated, human screams and blood. The blood of his people dripping from wolf claws. The corpse of a mother and her infant child strewn to pieces, barely recognizable.
Mace opened his eyes and the stream of memory ceased almost as quickly as it had begun. He wiped cold sweat from his forehead as he rose from his seated position careful not to strike his head on the top of the cavern that had been his home for the past few decades. It was a wet home often during the rainy seasons as it was now and Mace had little but rags to brace himself against the bitter forces of nature.
Still the same, he thought, when will the past stop confounding me? When will I have peace?
Mace made his way out of the dimly lit cavern into the rainy light of day. It was cloudy with a light breeze and rain. Mace took a breath, it was like breathing water, then made his way down to a nearby valley that was covered with trees and contained within it a small stream that brought Mace his drinking supply and his main source of protein—fish.
Mace was set on catching one today. He found a good small but strong tree limb and whittled it into a point with his trusty jeweled knife. Then he rolled up his pant legs and went to work. It was slow going. In a stream like this Mace couldn’t count on food from it every day. He usually had to rely on nuts and berries to maintain his strength. But he was determined that wouldn’t be the case today.
He observed the currents of the water and was very still and silent. Mace sensed movement and chucked his spear in its direction. A perfect hit. Meat was on the menu for the day at least.
Back in his cavern Mace sat cooking his fish and found himself slipping back into his thoughts again…
It was thirty years ago. Orcs were raging through the country making a mockery of decent law abiding citizens of the empire. They pillaged and destroyed wherever they could. And they were coming nearer to his city.
Mace was the sheriff. It was his duty to make certain that the people of his town were safe and secure. Usually that meant keeping the Werewolf problem encroaching from the Timber Woods at bay but now it meant securing all the borders which was making his task highly difficult. But Mace had come up with a plan to kill two birds with one stone.
Mace knew that the wolves were anxious about the Orc problem and that if the borders weren’t secured that chaos would befall the region for both parties so he had worked out an arrangement to meet with Draygo, the tribal leader of the Werewolf’s, to propose a solution that would solve both of their problems and perhaps bring greater stability to the region.
The plan was simple. A peace treaty where the wolves would protect their own borders and no longer assail the human city of Xanthus. Both parties agreed to the proposal. But in the end the wolves did not honor it. Instead they betrayed Mace. Instead they aligned themselves secretly with the Orcs and together on a cold winter night ravaged the city slaughtering thousands.
Mace ate his fish. It was hot and burnt but still palatable. He spit the bones of the fish out as he munched hungrily. Mace listened to the dripping of water deep within the cavern and the soft crackles of burning wood. And through this Mace finally found himself thinking of nothing—of just living. It almost brought him to tears. He hadn’t felt this way since before the tragedy thirty years ago.
Maybe I’m ready to leave, he thought.
But just then, before he could think or rethink his assertion that he may be ready to leave, a shape walked into view. It shocked Mace. It was a young man barely beyond the age of ascension. He looked at Mace with a knowing smirk. His long brown hair coming down to shoulders that bore fine clothing. He looked hard at Mace with a deep resigning judgmental stare.
“We’ve been watching you.” He paused for Mace to take the statement in. “We’ve been watching you for a long time.”
“Who are you?” Mace asked incredulously.
“You know me or at least know my father,” the young man said, “and he says it is time.”
“Time for what?” Mace retorted.
“To bring your suffering to an end.” The young man pulled out a long jagged knife out and placed on the polished rocky floor. “Outside is a platoon of the finest Orc and Werewolf army ever assembled. There is no escape. Come now Mace. Do us all a favor. Kill yourself so that we won’t have to.”
Somehow they had found him or perhaps they had always known. Yes, that must be it. They always knew and were patiently waiting for Mace to reemerge from his self-imposed punishment. No, Mace wouldn’t go that far. They had known. They just didn’t care and now they were just tying up loose ends. But why now?
Mace stared at the knife. Then he scolded himself. If he was going to kill himself, he would have done it by now. Mace now came to realize what he had really been doing by coming out here in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t to hide or give up. It was to live. By living out here among the elements in this harsh environment he had come to know himself more deeply—more fully. Something that this young man would never understand. If indeed he was a man.
Mace looked deeper into the boy’s soul and saw it. The darkness. He was a wolf. The future for the first time in ages rolled out before Mace. The young man would transform then they would fight and Mace would have to face what lay beyond his mountain cavern home.
“So, how is your father?” Mace decided to call him on his threats, “What was his name again?” Mace didn’t want the boy to think he had been thinking of the past this entire time.
“Don’t play stupid old man.” The young man retorted, “You know full well that my father’s name is–”
“Sorry what was that?” Mace said, “I have a rather short memory of betrayers. I tend to try to forget when I’ve been abused.”
The boy laughed, “my father always wondered why you never sought revenge.”
“Oh, that’s easy. I enjoy warm dishes for dinner not cold ones.” Mace shot back.
The young man stood flabbergasted not sure what to do or how to react. Now Mace decided to push back against this young fool. Mace found it hard to conceal a grin.
“Well young one, I think it’s time you move along.” Mace said, “Whatever you are selling I’m not buying.”
“Did you not hear what I said?” the boy asked with a tinge of anger laced in his voice that was becoming more deep and throaty.
“Oh, I did I just don’t do well with the authority of wolves.” Mace said.
“Then prepare to die!” and with that the young man scowl turned deeper and he began snarling as Mace could hear bones contort and crack. He looked in horror as muscles bulged and fur sprouted. Mace grabbed his jeweled knife and rushed forward and picked up the jagged knife that lay on the floor of the cavern and began thrusting and jabbing forward as the young man transformed into a Werewolf.
As hard as Mace tried he could not stop the transformation. Instead the wolf struck back swinging its massive left forearm hard into Mace’s midsection sending him flying into the side of the cavern. Mace was able to hold on luckily to the two knifes in each of his hands as the wolf leapt on top of him and began slashing and scratching at him.
Mace was getting cut up badly but he was landing solid blows of his own against the fearsome beast. Mace rolled out from under the wolf and quickly rose to his feet. The wolf looked at him and howled. The sound echoed through the cavern.
“You know, I think I do remember your father,” Mace said as he wobbled on his feet, “Wasn’t he the guy that betrayed me and my people to take up with a bunch of inbred hillbillies that don’t know the meaning of the word hygiene?”
That made the wolf livid he growled again and pounced forward to deliver a death blow. He pounced right into Mace’s trap. As the Wolf flew through the air Mace slung the jagged dagger straight and true right into the wolf’s eye where it stuck with a sickening thud. The wolf whimpered and began tearing at its eye. That’s when Mace jumped on the wolf’s back and with his jeweled knife and went for the kill.
One quick slice to the jugular and it was all over. The wolf fell onto its stomach and retched as it suffocated on its own blood then died.
Mace slumped down for a moment against the cavern wall and composed himself. He sat for what seemed like an eternity and peered towards the entrance to the cavern. Peered towards the outside world where supposedly many more Werewolves lay in wait. After a time, Mace stood and made his way carefully outside into the rainy breeze he had tasted earlier in the day. But this time he scanned the surrounding area for enemies. For young men and Werewolves. For Orcs.
But he found nothing. He found no one. Mace laughed. The young man had lied and Mace had called his bluff. However, the experience gave Mace cause to wonder. Just what was happening in the outside world? Mace knew it was time to find out.