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Ralen-Lykos

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Everything posted by Ralen-Lykos

  1. Ralen-Lykos

    Furry Jewellery

    These designs have all been made with the furry community in mind.~ Some will be anthro themed, some merely animal themed. Thus far, this fandom hasn't shown much love for what I create. So I am shying away from making pieces too strongly anthro themed to market to non-furs. Besides, I have my own sense of style and I am not interested in conforming to the fads and fashions of any community.
  2. From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Celebrating sharks this week, with an elegant and unique pendant inspired by one of the most unique and fascinating elements of their design. The form of this pendant is inspired by the microscopic placoid scales of the Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran), which are a key feature in making these animals so beautifully streamlined and even act against waterborne bacteria. The piece has a pleasant weight to it and is mounted on a fine rectangular link chain. Weight of silver: 1.5g Sterling Pendant dimensions: 16 x 18mm Chain length: 60cm Time taken: 4hrs Price: R1100 (or 75 USD approximately) (Note: SEM image belongs to Sciencesource)
  3. From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Inspired by a recent working week spent as an assistant guide in the Kruger National Park, building on a concept I explored once before of carving animal tracks into silver plate with dremel tools. The texture created by the foot pad of an elephant in the soft sandy soil of much of the Kruger area creates an interesting random pattern reproduced here in raised lines of polished silver among the roughly textured areas carved out by hand. A slender border follows and highlights the unique shape of the front foot. To finish off the piece, I employed a design I've used before in creating the matching enhancer clasp, which allows this pendant to be interchanged between chain and cords conveniently. This pendant is for sale as it (without chain or cord) or with the option to have a chain or cord of your choice included. Weight of silver: 3.2g Sterling Time taken: 5 and 1/2 hours Pendant dimensions: 25 x 18mm Enhancer clasp capacity: up to 5mm Price: R1475

    © Jeffrey Michael

  4. It is a long and solemn walk back to the castle. The rattling of the heavily laden cart and the steady foot falls of the horses are the only sound. Not one word is spoken; none can find it in their hearts to do more than march in sombre silence alongside the sad fare. The soldiers and guards carry their helmets close to their hearts and as the procession passes the first of the houses, they are joined by a steady flow of villagers. No words are needed to explain to the newcomers the contents of the cart. Mourners fall quietly in step – silent and with heads bowed. As word is taken to the castle, a crowd begins to gather outside the gate. Lord Tewdrig stands at the head of the assembly, his kindly face heavy with grief and guilt. The cart draws to a stop before the crowd and Ralen walks silently across to stand before the elderly Lord. They nod wordlessly to each other and Lord Tewdrig motions for the people to make way. The cart rattles past while the crowd remains outside, their attention fixed upon Ralen and their master. ‘You have done us a great service, My Lord,’ Lord Tewdrig says, after a time, ‘it only grieves me that I was such a fool as to delay seeking your aid. Much might have been different otherwise…’ His voice trails off, the shame of his error weighing heavily on his shoulders. ‘What’s past is past, My Lord,’ Ralen replies, ‘the killer is no more. I only hope that the closure of granting your loved ones the dignity of a proper funeral will bring some peace to you all.’ ‘We are grateful to you, My Lord. More than we can express,’ Lord Tewdrig replies, to the muted agreement of those gathered, ‘there is no gift I can give that would truly fulfil my debt to you.’ Ralen shakes his head, ‘I do not come for payment my friend. If you desire to thank me, then grant me just one wish.’ ‘Anything my Lord.’ The old man replies without hesitation. ‘I would speak with your son before I take my leave.’ ‘My son?’ Lord Tewdrig says, blinking in surprise, ‘Well…if that is what you wish My Lord.’ ‘It is.’ Ralen confirms. ‘When would you desire to speak with him? I must warn you, he has not spoken a word since his return.’ ‘That is good.’ Ralen replies. This statement shocks the crowd. ‘Good, my Lord?’ Lord Tewdrig repeats. ‘Yes. It means that there is a chance for some future benefit to come out of this nightmare. If you have no objection my Lord, I would speak with him now.’ Ralen replies calmly. Amidst a susurrus of confusion, he is lead away into the castle. Lord Tewdrig walks slowly, clearly filled with curiosity as to what he has in mind. Their path leads up two flights of stairs to a large oak door, watched over by a single guard. He lacks the armour typical of his class, but both his burliness and the heavy blade resting against his shoulder make a clear statement as to his purpose. When he recognizes his master, however, he unlocks the door, then stands aside and bows to them both. Before entering, Ralen turns to Lord Tewdrig. ‘I shall need privacy. I must ask both you and your servants to leave us be for some time.’ He says. Lord Tewdrig bows reluctantly and motions for the guard to come away, leaving Ralen to enter his son’s room alone; shutting the door behind him. Ralen surveys the room’s lavish furnishings. Gold gilding and gaudy engravings give the furniture a chaotic appearance; almost offensive to his eyes. The window shutters are thrown wide open to let in the fresh air of the early evening. The gentle breezes ruffle the tassels of the linen curtains drawn aside on the oversized four-poster bed. Shoved against the centre of the far right wall, its vastness leaves the bruised and battered young lord looking all the more weak and fragile. He lies propped up on a mound of pillows, his legs covered over with blankets and his chest bare and glistening with salves and ointments to ease the multitude of bruises. His straw coloured hair is slick with moisture and sticks to his forehead in short curls. His swollen eyes appear closed, but Ralen does not sense any rest in him. As he steps forward, the boy reveals his wakefulness – turning his bruised face slightly to towards him. Ralen stands beside the bed, looking impassively at the young man. A weak smile forms on the young lord’s scarred lips. ‘I thought you might come.’ he croaks. ‘And now I have.’ Ralen replies. ‘Come to reproach me for being an impulsive fool?’ he asks. ‘If you still need that of me, then there is no hope.’ The boy chuckles. ‘What of my stupidity; falling for the bitch’s trap as I did?’ ‘To my mind, your punishment at her hands seems to have been quite sufficient,’ Ralen says, his face serious, ‘I am glad you do not attempt to deny the fact that you acted impulsively and foolishly.’ The young lord looks down, his smile fading somewhat. ‘I suppose even the most stubborn men reach a point where they can no longer deny that they are wrong.’ He says. Ralen nods slightly, waiting for the boy to continue. In due course, he does. ‘Forgive me for not recognizing you my Lord,’ He says, ‘I should have known it was you from the start, except that I was convinced that another werewolf could only mean me harm.’ ‘I understand,’ Ralen assures him, ‘you were, after all, only a small boy when last I visited your father’s land.’ The young lord nods. ‘Aye.’ An uncomfortable pause follows as Ralen stands waiting for him to continue. ‘What...’ he begins, faltering out of nervousness before he continues determinedly, ‘why have you come to see me then?’ Ralen holds his gaze. ‘It will soon enough be your responsibility to manage your father’s land and care for the people under his charge.’ he states. ‘What of it?’ the boy asks, his face falling in anticipation of what is to come. ‘Thus far, your life has revolved around your own desires, to the detriment of those around you. You are impulsive; acting without thought or care of the consequences of your actions. Such qualities are intolerable in a leader.’ Ralen pauses to allow the young man time to digest his reproach. ‘You have suffered the absence of your mother. Your father has failed in his responsibility to discipline you and I understand that such a privileged lifestyle makes it difficult for a young child to develop empathy for those less empowered than he. I do not seek to blame or beat you for your shortcomings, but your birth-right will one day make you the master of many and can you honestly say that you have in any way shown yourself fit to be entrusted with such power?’ The boy does not respond, continuing to stare at the sheets of his bed. ‘Whether you like it or not, you will have to choose: either to uphold your responsibility or renounce your claim to the privileged lifestyle which goes with it. If you should choose the latter, know that grave consequences are certain to follow for the people of this land. However, should you choose the former, know also that it is your responsibility to grow into a strong, wise and just man, so that you will be able to serve your people well when the time comes.’ ‘But I do not want that responsibility.’ The young Lord protests. ‘Then are you willing to accept the consequences of rejecting it?’ Ralen asks. ‘No, but everywhere I turn there are consequences! A life as a peasant or a life spent serving peasants! What choice is that?!’ ‘The freedom of choice is inextricable of the freedom to either accept or complain about the consequences.’ Ralen replies calmly. ‘What kind of advice is that?’ the boy asks, frustrated. ‘Make the right choices.’ Ralen says simply. ‘And suffer for it?’ ‘If you so wish.’ Ralen says, shrugging. ‘…what?’ Ralen shrugs again, ‘Consequences are inevitable. Whether you suffer them or rise above them is up to you.’ The young Lord stares, momentarily dumbfounded. It seems for an instant that he understands Ralen’s meaning, but a spark of rebellion makes him sneer. ‘Why should I trouble myself with this; how could you understand? You had everything a man could wish for handed to you from birth: strength, stature, a fighter’s instincts and even magic. You are the mighty Ulraek – immortal hero and undefeated warrior. Look at me! The son of a minor country lord, shorter than most women and scarcely strong enough to wield a sword or throw a spear more than ten paces. You know nothing about what it is like!’ After a moment’s pause, he swallows. Ralen’s eyes are fixed upon his own, not glaring or threateningly, but steady enough to make him regret his words. After a time though, Ralen smiles slightly and holds out his hand. ‘Take it.’ He says. The young lord looks from the proffered hand back to him, wariness plainly evident behind his bruises. ‘Take it,’ Ralen repeats, ‘let me show you my answer.’ Licking his bloodied lips, he tentatively reaches out and grasps Ralen’s hand. His brow creases in nervous anticipation, before his eyes suddenly go wide and stare sightlessly ahead. … Lord Tewdrig reaches the door just before Ralen opens it. The old man stumbles slightly as his hand fails to find the handle and he tries to compose himself, somewhat out of breath from his short run. ‘What happened?!’ he asks sharply, ‘I heard the cry. Where is my son?!’ He pushes his way past Ralen and hurries into the room. He pauses when he sees his son, sitting upright in his bed, his face pale and his eyes staring vacantly at the far wall. ‘Judoc!’ Lord Tewdrig cries, rushing over to his side, ‘My son! Speak to me Judoc!’ Judoc blinks, but does not answer immediately. His lips move silently, as if he were muttering to himself. ‘Good God…’ Lord Tewdrig moans, then turns to Ralen with fire in his eyes, ‘what have you done to my child?!’ Ralen does not answer, his face remaining placid. ‘It’s alright father.’ The old man turns to find his son looking at him, the glassiness leaving his eyes. ‘Judoc?’ he says nervously, ‘Are you alright? Why did you scream?’ ‘It was only shock that made me cry out father,’ Judoc replies, glancing briefly at Ralen, ‘the Lord Ulraek…surprised me is all.’ There is a trace of nervousness in his expression, which is not lost on Lord Tewdrig. ‘You sounded as if you were in pain.’ his father persists. ‘It was shock father, nothing more.’ Judoc insists. ‘My Lord,’ Ralen says, ‘I must take my leave of you now. Farewell Judoc.’ ‘Goodbye My Lord,’ Judoc replies quietly, then turns to his father, ‘don’t worry about me father, I will be fine. You must see his Lordship on his way.’ Still suspicious, Lord Tewdrig reluctantly gets up from beside his son and silently follows after Ralen. As they leave, a healer enters the room to tend to Judoc and shuts the door behind him. Lord Tewdrig waits until they are out of earshot of the guard before pressing Ralen once again, ‘Come now my Lord, what did you do to leave my son so?’ ‘No my Lord, that must remain secret,’ Ralen replies, shaking his head, ‘but suffice it to say that I firmly believe he will be better off for what he has seen.’ ‘But why did he scream?’ the old man persists. ‘The truth can hurt, but it heals those who truly embrace it.’ Ralen replies cryptically. ‘My Lord this will not do, I wish to know…’ ‘No.’ Ralen interrupts firmly. He turns to face Lord Tewdrig, his face set in a kind, but determined expression. ‘If you trust me my friend, then be content in the knowledge that I have done nothing to harm your son in any way. Judoc will tell you of our conversation, but I beg you not to press him for more than that. No good will come of it.’ The elderly lord looks at him hopelessly. Although obviously dissatisfied and disappointed, he daren’t profess not to trust the Lone Wolf’s word. After a long and uncomfortable pause, he at last nods reluctantly. ‘So be it, My Lord.’ He says. Taking pity on him, Ralen clasps his shoulder reassuringly. ‘Not all knowledge is beneficial my friend. There are times when ignorance should be treasured; like a strong house protecting one from the tempests and storms which rage unseen in the outside world. All will be revealed, as the time becomes right for it.’ Lord Tewdrig smiles weakly and shakes his head. ‘As always my Lord, you speak in riddles beyond my comprehension.’ ‘Less so than you might think.’ Ralen replies. They continue on their way. In moments they reach the courtyard, where the cart still stands bearing its heavy load. Five guards are stationed around it to prevent the sea of onlookers from getting too near the corpses. Already Ralen can hear the sounds of hammers and saws as workers begin to assemble a large pyre outside the castle walls. There are very few voices to be heard, as those not working continue their solemn vigil of the dead. Ralen’s face falls as he passes the grim pile and he pauses to pay his final respects. ‘Will you not stay for the funeral?’ Lord Tewdrig asks. ‘No my Lord. I am neither family nor friend to those who have passed away. I think it best if I leave your people to mourn in privacy. I have in any event another matter to attend to.’ The old man nods in understanding. ‘Then once again, I thank you my Lord, and I wish you well in your future.’ He says. ‘And I you.’ Ralen replies, bowing his head. ‘Go well my Lord.’ Lord Tewdrig says, raising his hand. Ralen nods once again, then turns to leave. He walks silently past the assembled mourners. Few notice his departure and those that do have not the heart either to speak or to cheer. As he exits the castle gate, he looks for a brief moment towards the massive pyre. The men have worked fast and sweat glistens on their brows in the light of the late afternoon sun. Among their ranks, he recognises some of those who accompanied him into the cave. A few notice him and almost as one man they turn and bow in solemn gratitude. Ralen raises his fist to his chest and bows his head in return, before continuing down the path. The sun shines in his eyes, causing him to look down at his feet as he makes his way towards the forest path. There are no workers in the fields now, leaving his passage uninterrupted. His steps are slow and unhurried. What reason is there for eagerness? The grim work of this day has not yet drawn to a close. Passing between the trees, he can already sense the change, however. Birdsong has returned to grace the once silent woods with its bright melodies. Now and again a hare sprints across the path, in a sudden dash of grey and brown fur. With his mind deep in thought, it is only a matter of time before the shadowy ruins of the abandoned quarry come once more into view. As he nears the entrance to the pit, he begins to transform. Slowly this time, his body grows and his limbs change. His muzzle creeps out from his face and his tunic gradually expands to fit him. His fur emerges slowly, along with his luxurious tail. The claws steadily return to his hands and feet and at long last his lupine body reaches wholeness. Sweeping aside the veil of ivy, he descends along the steep tunnel into the caves. His hands and paws crunch heavily against the gravel, but there is no need for stealth now. Turning the corner of the short passageway, he re-emerges into Auola’s chamber. The fire now merely glows as the embers begin to die. To his eyes, however, the corpse of the defeated vae is still perfectly clear. Silently, he crosses the chamber. He crouches down beside the body and rolls it over, before scooping her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing at all. Standing to his feet, he advances towards another tunnel beside the entrance to the pit. This tunnel extends down into blackness and as its darkness envelops him, he wordlessly summons a small sphere of light to guide him. It illuminates a narrow passageway, continuing some way into the distance. The floor is uneven and the ceiling rises steadily until it finally escapes his light. He walks solemnly on, carrying the limp body as gently as if it were a sleeping babe. His eyes never stray from the floor ahead and his expression is vacant and sad. By and by, the passage leads him to a dead end. Here the ground gives way to a natural crevasse. The sides are rough and far apart and the floor is beyond the reach of his light. Just within hearing, however, the quiet whisper of rushing water echoes up from the depths. A bucket sits close to the edge, tied by its handle to a very long rope. Standing on the edge of the precipice, Ralen looks down at the body in his arms. Her eyes are closed and her head is nestled against his chest, with only the wound between her breasts to show that she is not merely asleep. As he closes his eyes, he can see it once again… The bones break under his blow with a sickening crack. Auola gasps as her heart is pierced and he feels the warmth of her blood against his skin. Steeling himself against the sickness wrenching at his heart, he opens his eyes to share a final, mournful glance with his defeated opponent. The arrogance and fiery rage have left her eyes and in their place there is genuine fear. She gasps softly, gargling as blood trickles into her lungs. He can feel her heart stuttering and her body begin to shudder and convulse as the life rapidly drains from it. ‘But…Khrail…’ she whispers to him, her voice desperate, ‘…you would not ki…’ The crack of her neck and the sigh of the final breath escaping from Auola’s lungs, seem to him to echo throughout the cavern as he opens his glistening eyes and stares down into the pit. With Solemn slowness, he raises the body out over the chasm and, without further ceremony, releases it. She seems almost to float for a moment, before rapidly being drawn down into the darkness of the chasm. As her coal black fur ruffles in the rushing air, Ralen’s eyes look one last time upon her fair face. Just as she is about to disappear, he briefly shuts his eyes and breathes deeply. ‘No, Auola,’ he says quietly, clenching his fists as he watches her vanish, ‘Khrail would have done it without hesitation.’ A faint splash echoes from below as her body is claimed by its watery grave. Ralen lingers for a moment, before turning slowly away and beginning the long walk back to the surface. … The ground shakes and a deep rumbling sounds from within the limestone cavern. Ralen stands a short distance from the entrance of the abandoned quarry, with his right hand raised towards the stony hillock. Cracks spread across the stone walls and several of the gnarled trees fall from their perches amongst the rocks. At last a deafening, hollow rumble sounds from within the earth and the quarry caves in on itself. The ground shudders beneath his paws as the massive boulders bounce against one another and slam into the stone beneath. Clouds of pale dust erupt from the broil; the billowing shadows looking dark and ominous against the pale evening sky. Gradually the noise dies down as the last of the boulders settle and the smaller stones trickle down in between them. The clouds of dust spread out and dissipate amongst the trees. Ralen lowers his arm. The dark secrets which Auola hid here are now lost to the world; none shall lay their hands upon her belongings or her spells. In his left hand though, he clasps the white robe and golden necklace which had been the vae’s disguise when she left her lair. Turning away from the ruins of the quarry, he sets off between the trees, carefully folding the robe into a tight bundle with the necklace at its heart. The haunting call of a Tawny owl sounds to his left and he halts. Turning, he spies the mottled brown bird nestled in the fork of a hollow oak tree. Its hooded eyes stare down at him drowsily. It slowly turns its head to the side and calls once again. A faint smile returns to Ralen’s lips. Cupping his free hand around his muzzle, he returns the owl’s call with an excellent impersonation. Its head perks up with interest and it calls out again. He returns the call with the longer trill that the birds sometimes make. The owl twists its head to the opposite side, before ruffling its feathers and hopping to a lower branch. It calls out once again, then opens its wings and leaps from the perch; soaring off in silence down the path ahead. Ralen watches it go, smiling softly. Soon though, he must continue. It is a little while before he emerges from the trees. By now, night has fallen completely and the fields and houses of the village are shrouded in darkness. The castle, however, is lit up by the eerie red flames of the funeral pyre. The crackling can be heard even from here – carried on the wind, along with the smell of smoke and burning flesh. Ralen raises his hand to his heart and lowers his head in a final gesture of respect and farewell. After a moment’s silent prayer, he steps out onto the main road and turns his back on this grieving land. The moonless sky, awash with stars, stretches above him. His keen eyes can see even by their weak light. Auola’s memories of her night-time raids obscure the beauty for a moment though, but he sets his will against them and shuts them from his mind. Far in the distance, the dark silhouettes of the Fayern Valley Mountains rise just above the trees. Eyes set upon his home, the Lone Wolf walks swiftly onwards; a grey silhouette, soon vanishing into the darkness of the night. *** One Story Ends. Another Has Begun
  5. [Warning: this chapter features nudity, violence, gore, death and other mature themes, reader discretion is advised] He growls and squeezes tighter. Auola gags, her hands coming up to pull weakly at his wrist, but to no avail. She writhes beneath him. Soon bright lights begin to race across her vision. He watches her wide eyes begin to lose their focus and feels her struggles slowly dying. Just as she is about to lose consciousness though, he frowns as if in pain and eases his grip. She wheezes and coughs, desperately gulping air in short, ragged breaths. His hand stays at her throat, but the rage has left him and his grip is soft. It takes some small time for Auola’s breathing to ease. When she has recovered enough to speak, she turns her eyes to him. Her face is filled with confusion. ‘What happened to you?’ she asks, ‘Why do you keep yourself in a cage?’ He frowns at her words, but then his face slowly softens. Sighing heavily, he releases her. ‘I cage the beast so that I may be free.’ He says, standing to his feet. He glances at his right hand. Blood trickles slowly from four deep punctures in his palm – his claws having dug into the flesh when he punched her. Resting his left hand against the wounds, he quickly stops the bleeding. Still coughing somewhat, Auola raises herself up. She clutches at her bleeding neck, as if to compress the wound. ‘You cannot be free if you deny what you are.’ she states. The dark light shines once more as she heals the ragged bite, causing the Lone Wolf to look away in displeasure. ‘I deny nothing,’ he replies firmly, ‘I am not Khrail; not anymore. I am Ralen.’ Auola frowns and bares her fangs in a quiet snarl. ‘Ralen?’ she says with distaste, ‘You’ve thrown away the greatest name among our kind…and replaced it something meaningless?’ ‘I choose my destiny. It is not for my name to decide. She that birthed me may have named me Khrail out of what she called love, but there is no love in that name and it is no honour to bear it.’ Auola growls angrily and her ears draw flat against her neck. ‘How far have you sunk that you will not even speak your own mother’s name? You dog!’ she spits. Ralen remains with his back to her. His expression is cold and sad. ‘I care not what you think of me Auola.’ He says simply. ‘Of course you do not; you care nothing for your own kind! You care only for waste like this!’ She is on her feet and across the cavern before he can stop her. She seizes her prisoner by the throat and turns back to face Ralen, glaring fiercely. ‘Look at this worm!’ she barks, ‘What good is he alive? Wretch! Do you know that he came here intending to avenge the deaths of the other humans?’ She turns to the chained boy and smiles wickedly. ‘Such a noble quest,’ she says tauntingly, ‘oh how bravely he marched into the very lair of the beast.’ She laughs, running a claw down his bruised chest. ‘And yet, one look at the fair damsel which lay upon the bed of rags and he forgot all about his mission. Oh yes, he walked into my trap without so much as a word of encouragement. Imagine it! This scrawny…shrew of a man, thinking that such a woman would even give him a second glance.’ Ralen’s body tenses as he watches her taunting display. Her laughter grates on his nerves and his hackles rise. He stays his anger though, for her claws are too near the young boy’s throat. He can believe what she says. The influence that he had felt earlier was easily enough to overcome the will of the average man, let alone a young boy filled with youthful pride and arrogance. Her tone worries him though; he senses the final act is near. ‘I am glad that you came to me Khrail,’ she continues, her tone suddenly icy, ‘do you know why?’ When he does not answer, she continues, ‘Because now I can take the name that you have so abused.’ ‘Auola, do not…’ he growls warningly, his ears drawing back. ‘You will not allow this human to die, but I hold his life in my hands,’ she replies, ignoring him, ‘so if you wish to save him…then you must take your own life.’ Ralen snorts. ‘Do you still take me for a fool Auola?’ ‘I do not idly threat!’ she growls warningly. ‘And I will not make such a bargain,’ He replies leadenly, ‘if this is the path you choose, then let us end this! He breaks into a sudden dash towards her. She bares her fangs to him in a hideous snarl and prepares to crush her prisoner’s neck. Suddenly though, her hand is pressing against something cold and hard. She looks down to see that a ring of golden light has appeared, surrounding the boy’s neck. Her head is snapped back as Ralen grabs a hold of the fur of her neck. With a sudden tug he wrenches her away from her victim. This time he holds nothing back. He drags her down until her back is flat against his knee, raises his free arm and drives his elbow down into her sternum… A sickening crack sounds. Auola’s mouth gapes, and her eyes go wide. Blood begins to flow from the torn skin between her breasts. Her heart stutters – the muscle pierced by broken bone. She shivers convulsively and her breaths come in short, shallow gasps. Ralen’s elbow still rests on the wound it created, and his eyes are shut in a pained grimace. Gradually he opens them and stares sorrowfully into those of the dying vae. She looks up at him and for the first time there is only fear in her expression. A single tear falls from his dark eyes and lands lightly on her neck. ‘But…Khrail…’ she whispers desperately, ‘…you would not ki…’ She never completes her sentence. Even as she speaks he takes hold of her head and with a firm twist, he snaps her neck. … Nechtan sighs and looks up from his seat. Across the stable yard, Lord Tewdrig has spent the last hour or more strapping his horse. His bony hands move the brush vigorously over the chestnut mare’s flank, working the area for the second or third time. His wrinkled face is locked in an expression of utmost concentration as he struggles to keep his mind occupied with the task at hand. Nechtan’s own stallion stands behind him, already gleaming in the afternoon sun. Its saddle rests in his lap. The leather shines from the thorough polishing he has given it, while his strong forearms glisten with sweat and his hands are painted brown and black with grime. He shakes his head as his master grunts with exertion. If he does not stop him now, he will probably give the mare blisters. Getting to his feet, he sets the saddle down on its stand and walks over to the old man. Gently, he lays a hand upon his shoulder, ‘My Lord. You must calm yourself.’ He says. Lord Tewdrig whips around, his face contorted with anger and sorrow, ‘Calm myself!’ he erupts, ‘Calm myself Nechtan?! My son is…my son…’ His voice breaks and he trembles. Nechtan catches him before he falls and sets him down gently on the bench nearby. ‘Your son’s life Sire, is in the hands of the great Ulraek,’ he says firmly, ‘there is nothing more you could do than what you have already done.’ He claps the old man on his shoulder. ‘We must be patient and await the Ulraek’s return.’ Lord Tewdrig looks up weakly, before sagging back against the wall and letting his head slump forward. ‘First my wife,’ he sobs, ‘and now my son as well.’ Nechtan hangs his head with a quiet sigh. Lady Aurelia had died during childbirth and the loss had shattered his master’s already tender heart. Instead of growing reckless and violent, as some do in the wake of such a tragedy, his Lordship had gone to the other extreme. In the months following his wife’s death, Nechtan had watched the once young and vibrant Lord grow grey and aged. What little ambition he had held had vanished overnight and left him a complacent and fragile man. The child’s abuse of his father’s generosity and tenderness had only worsened matters. Yet for all his son’s cruelty towards him, Nechtan knows that his master would never survive the loss of his only child. The hollow ringing of the watchman’s trumpet breaks the solemnity and Lord Tewdrig looks up with faint, desperate hope. He leaps suddenly to his feet, but Nechtan catches him as his weak heart flutters at the sudden movement. As quickly as he dares, Nechtan leads his master out of the stables and through the gate, onto the path leading through the courtyard. They both squint into the distance. A figure is visible, approaching from the forest path. Servants and guards and all the other inhabitants of the castle begin appearing in the windows and doorways overlooking the courtyard. Excited conversation fills the air as they all realize that there are two figures walking side by side. When a loud cheer goes up around him, Lord Tewdrig collapses into Nechtan’s arms in utter relief. Ralen, now clothed and in human form, leads the bruised and battered boy up the path with slow, measured steps. The young Lord’s feet drag along the ground with each step and his arm is slung over Ralen’s shoulder. His head hangs low, though as the cheers of the castle reach his ears, he raises himself slightly more upright. Four of the castle guards come running out to them, bearing a wooden litter. Ralen hands the young Lord over to them and they lift him onto the platform and hurry him over to where his father stands, waiting anxiously. Ralen jogs along with them, his eyes on the battered young man. Men and women appear from the houses and fields beside the path and many run alongside the group. They cheer and shout, relieved that the creature which has been preying upon them has at last been defeated. A number shout out praises to Ralen, but he finds it hard to share their joy; the pain is still too fresh. As he looks at their faces too, flashes of Auola’s memories come to him – of how she stole her way into the lives of so many here. He remembers the lies and deception with which she lured her victims away, as if he were himself the same secret thief. His stomach feels knotted as he relives the pleasure she felt whilst mauling their loved ones to death, as if it had been his own. Their terrified screams and wretched, sickening death cries echo through his mind and turn his heart cold. He knows that the memories are not his, but still he cannot stave off the terrible feeling of wretchedness and guilt. Before this day is over, he must do all he can to separate the vae’s mind from his own. Lord Tewdrig interrupts his thoughts – rushing forwards and throwing his arms around him. A pensive silence descends upon the crowd and all eyes turn to Ralen as the old man thoughtlessly sobs and babbles his gratitude. ‘Oh thank you my Lord! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you…’ he cries. Ralen is taken aback at first, but then graciously returns the embrace. After a moment though, he takes the old man by the shoulders and gently draws him away. ‘My Lord,’ he says, ‘your son will need to be attended too. In the meantime, however, I would be glad if some of your men would accompany me back to the abandoned mine and bring with them a large cart drawn by two strong horses.’ He pauses and his face falls, ‘It would be best…if the men were of a strong constitution.’ Lord Tewdrig wipes his eyes on his sleeves, ‘Why, certainly my Lord,’ he says, ‘but why should you need my men to accompany you there, now that the deed is done?’ Ralen pauses, closing his eyes for a moment. ‘To bring closure.’ He says at last. … The line of torches sends flickering shadows dancing across the cavern walls ahead of the group, as Ralen leads the twenty-odd men down the short tunnel to the central chamber. Most are soldiers and palace guards, though three stout farmers and a burly blacksmith have also joined their ranks. There is a definite air of apprehension amongst them, but thankfully none show any signs of being faint hearted. Ralen sincerely hopes that they do indeed have the nerve for what is to come. Turning the corner, he gives them a moment to take in their surroundings. Their attention is immediately drawn to the black form lying in the dust against the far wall. The men murmur amongst themselves, many pointing towards the silhouette. ‘My Lord Ulraek…’ an elderly soldier asks, indicating the dark form. ‘Yes, that is she.’ Ralen replies solemnly. ‘She?!’ the man exclaims, as his comrades share looks of surprise and disbelief. ‘Aye. The one who preyed upon you was a female of my kind – a vae, in our tongue.’ As the men continue to mutter amongst themselves, one of the farmers – a spry, sharp faced man – walks over to the now smouldering fire before them. Kneeling down, he stares at the blackened copper pot sitting amongst the coals. He takes up the nearby poker and scratches amongst the contents. The odd rattling sound which this produces quickly catches the attention of the rest of the group. ‘What is it?’ another man asks, ‘Bones?’ ‘Nay…rocks. Just…pieces of stone from the floor here.’ the farmer replies, confused. A second man joins him and also frowns at the strange contents of the battered pot. ‘Why should it want to cook limestone?’ he wonders aloud. ‘Look, there’s a mortar over there.’ A young soldier says, indicating a stone bowl stained with white powder and set upon a large flat rock, along with several other receptacles and utensils. The group begin to mutter and murmur amongst themselves once again. “Witchcraft” appears to be the general consensus. ‘Sirs.’ Ralen calls. They turn. He has crossed the cave and is standing at the entrance to a small side tunnel. A set of iron shackles dangles down ominously upon the wall beside him. Ralen motions the men towards him with a solemn wave of his hand. ‘Come.’ He says. They follow after him as he squeezes through the narrow portal. On the other side, there lies a second large cavern. There is a strange odour about the place: damp, musty and almost acrid. The sandy floor continues for only a few feet before suddenly dropping off into blackness. Ralen steps towards the edge, where he halts. The first soldier to join him shines his torch down into the shallow pit and instantly turns away, doubles over and wretches. The others rush forward and as their lights illuminate the bottom of the pit, every man freezes in his place. ‘By…God…’ the blacksmith says under his breath. The pit is a charnel house. Ruined bodies, some mutilated beyond recognition, lie spread out upon the dusty floor; gaping holes marking those upon which the vae fed. In contrast to their savaged flesh, they have been neatly arranged in perfect rows, like a collection of gruesome hunting trophies. All have been liberally sprinkled with an off-white, chalky powder, which has partially mummified the flesh and prevented its decay. They are all human and most are men. The ten or so women have all had the hair torn from their scalps and the bloodied tresses are laid out upon their bellies. Their faces too, have been violently ravaged by claws. Ralen does not look. His head is hung low and his eyes closed, his lips moving softly as he whispers silent prayers under his breath. The men still stand around him, none yet able to move. Those soldiers who have recovered from the shock, shakily remove their helmets and bow their own heads in respect and mourning. The silence is broken, however, as a young soldier suddenly shouts an exclamation and leaps down into the pit. ‘Bryan! What are you doing?!’ another soldier exclaims. ‘Llewelyn! No! Llewelyn!’ the young man cries, falling to his knees beside one of the corpses. The torch falls from his grasp and clatters to the ground. Its flame illuminates the empty eyes of a boy only a few years younger than himself. As he stares at the body, his chest heaves and his face screws up in a pained grimace. ‘No…my brother…my brother…’ he moans in lamentation. His pained sobs echo through the stillness of the cave as he rocks back and forth with his head in his hands. Tears begin to fall from between his fingers to splash against his brother’s broken arm; mixing with the quicklime. Two more men jump down into the pit, while the rest stand, solemnly watching. The pair walk slowly over to Bryan and gently try to pull him away from his brother’s corpse. He shakes off their grip violently however, and throws himself across the body with a desperate cry. ‘No!’ he chokes, ‘No!’ The men exchange sorrowful glances before reaching for him once again, but they stop when a hand falls on their shoulders. Ralen looks at them and shakes his head. Motioning for them to give the boy space, he kneels down beside him and gently lays a hand on his shoulder. Bryan tenses under his touch, but Ralen does not try to pull him away. Instead, he simply kneels with him in silence for a time. His eyes come to rest on the face of the younger brother. Despite the drying effects of the quicklime, his delicate features and fair skin suggest that he could not have been more than twelve years old when he met his death. Ralen grimaces as the boy’s terrified face and dying gasps surface from amongst the vae’s memories. Gradually, several more men descend into the pit and begin searching out friends and family. Bryan’s sobs are soon joined by others as men fall to their knees beside the lifeless corpses of their loved ones. Those who have not lost anyone to this place stand solemnly alongside their grieving comrades, offering what little comfort they can. Ralen remains with Bryan for some time still, before standing to his feet and casting a sad glance around this horrid pit. Six men still sit on their knees beside the dead. Tears flow freely and moans and sobs echo through the cavern in a mournful chorus. In time, however, he has to rouse the men from their mourning. The dead must be moved from this evil place. ‘There are sheets enough in the adjoining cavern to wrap them in, that we may carry them out of this pit. Let some of you fetch the largest of these.’ He says. Wordlessly, those men who have recovered from their grief clamber out of the pit and soon return with armfuls of the less ragged cloths from the vae’s bed. ‘Take great care not to touch the bodies,’ Ralen warns, ‘for all that the quicklime has staved off their decay, some may yet be diseased.’ It is a silent and sombre display as the men begin to wrap the bodies. Blankets are thrown over the corpses and the often fragile remains then rolled over and bundled up as tightly as possible. Bryan and three of the others to have found their lost among the dead, continue to sit dazed beside the corpses even as they are bundled up in the cloths. When the last of the bodies has been prepared, Ralen gives the order for them to be carried out of the caves and taken to the cart outside. He himself stays in place to supervise the removal and to watch over the mourners. The process is a slow one, as each body has to be manhandled up the steep and slippery tunnel that is the entrance to the cave system. As the last body is being lifted from the pit, Ralen takes Bryan by the arm and lifts him to his feet. The boy is still dazed with grief, but allows himself to be lead out of the pit and into the main cavern. ‘My Lord, what of the vae’s body?’ one of the men says suddenly, indicating the sorry corpse lying in the dust. ‘Leave it for the worms.’ A soldier replies dismissively. ‘Nay, hang it from a gibbet! Let the crows feast on it and the children pelt it with stones!’ The blacksmith growls. ‘I say dump it in the river for the fish!’ another soldier shouts. ‘Not enough!’ All eyes turn to Bryan. His entire body shakes with barely controlled anger and his hands clench and unclench subconsciously. Grinding his teeth, he glares fiercely at the black corpse. ‘I say, do to her what she did to us!’ His lips pulled back in a snarl, he draws a knife from his belt and rushes towards the body. Before he can mutilate the vae’s corpse, however, Ralen’s hand latches onto his wrist in a vice-like grip. The boy looks up at his hand and then turns and stares at Ralen with a surprised expression; fresh tears welling up in his eyes. ‘No Bryan,’ Ralen says firmly, ‘there has already been too much wanton destruction. Do not disrespect the dead; revenge will bring you nothing but evil.’ ‘But…she deserves no respect!’ Bryan protests, though some influence of Ralen’s deep, piercing eyes begins to soften his determination. ‘No, she does not, but showing respect is to your own glory, not hers.’ Bryan blinks, unable to retort. Denied its escape, his anger slowly subsides and he relaxes his grip on the knife – the rage in his eyes burning low. ‘What then, My Lord?’ the Blacksmith asks. ‘Leave her lie. I will deal with the body later.’ Ralen replies simply. There is general nodding at this. Like as not, many expect him to have some righteous punishment in mind for the vae’s body. Whatever the case, the men seem contented to leave the disposal of the corpse to him. ‘Well come on, let us leave this dark place.’ one of the soldiers says to the group at large. Ralen releases Bryan’s wrist and waits to see what he will do. Bryan looks from him to the vae’s corpse and then back to him. He frowns deeply, the fires of hatred still burning in his heart. Finally, however, he sheathes his knife decisively and turns to follow the group. Ralen sighs inwardly with relief and falls in step behind the men. Before leaving the cave however, he casts a final glance upon Auola’s corpse. He must take the body away from this place, before others seek to exact their revenge upon it… He nods to himself. Yes. There it will never be disturbed.
  6. Ralen-Lykos

    Custom Pokebadge

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Just sent this recently to my furbestie DarkionNightfall on Furaffinity for our 2 year 'Friendversary'~ We discussed ideas for a gift and as they don't wear much jewellery and there isn't a gym badge which encompasses his fursona's species, the idea of a custom designed pokebadge was what we decided on. The design is based on the Dark Type pokemon symbol, adapted to include the eyes and forehead marking of the umbreons. It was a new challenge to figure out the best way of incorporating the obsidian gemstone into the design, but the contrast of black and silver really worked well! I added a few surprise details on the back, including the pokeball style cut out and the lettering, just to make it extra special for them~ Much love my friend<3
  7. [Warning: this chapter contains nudity, violence and other mature content. Reader discretion is advised] The young woman’s delicate features stretch and reform into a pointed snout. At the same time her body rises upwards, growing rapidly in size, and she snarls angrily, revealing the growth of slicing carnassial molars and dagger-like canines. Her nails lengthen and thicken, changing to a misty black colour, and with a sudden swipe of these newly formed claws, she tears off the white gown, revealing the growth of a thick coat of midnight black fur from her alabaster skin. A luxurious tail sprouts from the base of her spine and soon reaches to the floor. Her growth begins to slow, finally ceasing when she stands eight and a half feet tall, and with the transformation drawing to a close she tenses her new body and launches herself at the Lone Wolf. He sidesteps her sudden lunge and readies himself for the next. She lands on all fours, skidding in the sand, and spins around to face him. Although she remains poised, however, she does not attack. Her eyes have retained their original amber lustre and now they lock onto his with fierce intent. She sniffs the air again – her new form having heightened that sense. Her eyes dart briefly over his body, before she holds his gaze once more. ‘Change.’ She commands. The Lone Wolf does not hesitate. His human form fades away as it is engulfed by his lupine body. His limbs extend, his nails revert to claws and his tunic expands to accommodate him, while his dense grey fur returns to cover his body in its silky blanket. As his transformation completes, his opponent rises to her feet. The two werewolves stand just ten feet apart, staring at each other silently. While his eyes calculatingly take in her height and her visible strength, hers roam slowly over his new body. Her expression gives away a good deal of what she is thinking. He frowns at her attentions and growls deep in his throat. Perhaps out of spite, she ignores him for a moment before looking up. A different kind of smile now plays across her lips. ‘I have not met another of our kind in many a long year,’ She says, ‘and the last was truly a wretched wulf.’ Eyes shining dangerously, she flies at him in a vicious rage. Her claws go for his throat, but his hands clamp shut around her wrists and he hurls her onto her side. She skids along the ground for a short way, before snaring a foothold and propelling herself back towards him with a furious snarl. She lashes out again and he only just evades the dark slicing talons of her left hand. Ducking beneath her arms, he delivers a lightning fast elbow to her belly. The blow connects and he hears her gasp, but her stomach muscles press against him like a shield and she receives only a slight winding. He spins out from underneath her and adopts a defensive stance as he observes her reaction. Her right hand resting where his elbow met her stomach, the vae takes a few measured breaths before looking up at him once more. Her pained frown quickly becomes a pleasant and yet dark smile. She lowers her hand and steps towards him; halting less than an arm’s length away. ‘Strong,’ she says, ‘and fast too. I wonder though, are you enough of either?’ A backhanded blow connects with his muzzle and he barely manages to swat aside her claws as she once again flies at his throat. Her response is to leap into the air and descend upon him. He catches her, however, and they tumble over one another along the floor. She struggles mightily against his grip, but as they come to a halt he uses his superior strength to force her down against the ground. He growls, his teeth bared, but although at first she whines plaintively she soon begins to smile once again. The look in her eyes is one of obvious enjoyment. ‘Mmm, you are not wretched at all,’ she says in a hushed voice, ‘a fine wulf indeed.’ He does not answer. She smirks and holds his steely gaze with a sly one of her own. When he releases her wrists and stands to his feet, however, a look of confusion passes over her face. She raises herself up onto her hands and stands slowly to her feet, her eyes never leaving his. After a moments silence, she finally asks, ‘Why have you come for me?’ ‘I did not come for you, vae; I came to put a stop to the killings.’ He replies firmly. She frowns at this, confused and not a little irritated. ‘Why should you seek to stop the killing of men?’ she asks. ‘Why should I not?’ he retorts. Her tail flicks from side to side as she lets loose the same hearty and lyrical laugh as before. For all its pleasantness, he can sense a hidden influence – seeking to enter his mind and relax his defences. He resists it easily, though he wonders what other tricks this vixen of a werewolf has to play. He cannot deny that she is a beautiful sight to behold: elegant, yet strong, her silky black coat accentuating her form and her toned muscles in a very pleasing way. In body he would almost certainly call her the paragon of their race. Indeed, were he the werewolf he had once been, he might well have been taken by her charms. Now, however, for all that he recognizes her beauty, he is more conscious of what it hides. ‘Because you are a werewolf!’ she exclaims amidst her laughter, ‘Killing is our instinct, bloodshed is our creed; man is our enemy and our prey.’ She steps forward once again, though not as close as before. ‘Lay down your swords,’ she says, smiling, ‘let us continue without their hindrance.’ He does as she says – unbuckling his scabbard and standing it against the wall of the cavern. He waits for her to resume her attack, but she shakes her head. ‘Your human clothes as well. Let this contest be as it should between two of our kind.’ The Lone Wolf frowns at her request. It is true that clothing means little to him, save when he is in human company, but he knows the true motive behind her request. Seeing his displeasure, she laughs once again, ‘Come now, say not that you are timid! Nothing is more natural for us than to be clothed in our fur alone.’ After a moment’s pause he sighs gruffly and unbuckles his leather wrist guards. Next he undoes the belt of his tunic. He shrugs off the garment and tosses it gently beside his scabbard. Now naked, his great strength and athleticism are fully displayed. The vae’s eyes actually widen as she unashamedly drinks in his form. Frustrated by her openness, he growls once more, but with a deeper resonance – like a distant thunderstorm. This time she immediately looks up at him and as her smiling eyes lock with his, he growls, ‘If you wish us to fight as werewolves, then so be it. Now let us begin.’ Lowering himself onto all fours, he bares his fangs. The vae smiles darkly and follows suit. ‘With pleasure.’ She growls. They begin to circle one another. In this four-footed stance, despite their humanoid bodies, they move with the ease and grace of their animal counterparts. Their tails are held rigid and their ears press flat against the backs of their heads as each one watches the other with cold, shining eyes. There is no mirth or reservation in either’s manner anymore; this is a true contest. The ring draws ever tighter as they continue to circle, waiting to see who will make the first move. The vae snaps at the Lone Wolf and he snarls threateningly in response. He attacks; his jaws agape, his powerful hind legs launching him towards her. His sudden aggressiveness takes her by surprise and his jaws find purchase on the scruff of her neck. She yelps in pain, but recovers immediately and manages to whip her head back, catching him a blow across the muzzle which loosens his grip just enough for her to pull free. She immediately turns and swipes. Her claws rake along his left flank and belly, drawing first blood. He snarls and instantly returns a blow of his own. The palm of his right hand slams into the side of her head with the force of a bear’s paw, sending her sprawling across the sand. She rolls over several times before coming to a stop. Dazed by the impact, she nonetheless jumps quickly back to her feet and turns back to him. While she shakes her head to clear the lights from her eyes, he slowly circles her. She turns to follow his path, ensuring that he never has an opening to attack her side. Whatever battle honour he had is not entirely discarded, or he would not have spared her his claws. Nevertheless, his manner makes it clear that he is intent on beating her down; one way or another. With her head cleared, she throws herself at him once more; this time darting in low. Her shoulder connects with his chest and she tries to push him back, but her strength is inferior and he holds his ground easily. His powerful arms lock around her chest and with a grunt, he lifts her off her feet. She flails wildly, but fails to find purchase as he raises her above his head and tosses her over his shoulder. She tumbles head over heels through the air and lands heavily on her chest. There is no time for her to recover, before his hand clamps shut around her neck. He drags her to her feet, spins her around and slams his open hand into her chest. It hits her like a battering ram and knocks her clean off her feet. This time, however, she follows through and turns her fall into a roll, coming up poised to strike back. She bounds across the floor of the cavern, racing towards him with another bodily assault in mind. As she readies herself for the pounce, however, she kicks up a cloud of sand and sends it flying into his face. Though he manages to shield his eyes, the distraction is enough to enable her to get past his arms. She leaps to the side, sliding her right arm around his neck, her momentum causing her to swing and drag him back off his feet. She draws herself in as they both fall, bracing her paws against the small of his back with her knees held close to her chest. Feeling herself touch the floor, she kicks out powerfully and sends him tumbling through the air; only releasing her grip on his neck at the last moment. He lands heavily on his side, but is back on his feet in moments. Now they both fly at each other. As they collide, they raise themselves up onto their hind legs and swipe at one other with their clawed hands. She slashes at his chest, but he swats her hand aside and brings his free hand down on her left shoulder. She winces at the impact and tries to claw his stomach, but again he blocks her. Snarling and snapping they fight for an opening. Despite his early success, she holds most of his blows at bay. She manages to get her hand around his neck and forces him to the side, but he immediately leaps back up and resumes his assault. His gleaming canines find purchase on her left forearm and she yelps and snaps at his head, just managing to bite his ear. He releases his hold, but then takes hold of her arm and twists it painfully. Unable to escape, she snarls through clenched teeth as he uses his momentary advantage to manoeuvre himself behind her. He places his free hand against her shoulder and forces her down onto the ground. Still holding her arm in his vice-like grip, he presses his knee into her back and rests the full weight of his body upon her. His hand moves to the top of her shoulder and he lowers his muzzle towards her ear, growling deeply. She remains still, unable to move. Suddenly, a hollow crack sounds from her other shoulder. The tortured joint twisting impossibly, she rolls over beneath him. His knee slips and he loses his balance as she pulls free from his grasp and pushes him down onto his back. She tries to bite his arm, but his large hand catches her by the muzzle and forces her head back. She clasps his arm desperately, but before she can claw at him, he draws her forwards and then throws her back. She stumbles off of him and only just manages to recover her balance. By now, however, he is once again on his feet and crouching down low, ready to strike. She quickly adopts a similar stance and her equal readiness makes him pause. Seeing his hesitation, she twists and shrugs her shoulder. With a second crack, the bone pops back into place. They eye one another carefully. Sand and dust discolour their fur and blood trickles from their open wounds. As he snarls at her again, she scoops up a handful of sand from the cave floor and tosses it into his face. He swats away the worst of it, however, and drops his head to the side to avoid the rest. In her surprise, she misses the opportunity to attack. He growls his displeasure at her repeated trickery and suddenly lunges forwards. Before she can react, he has knocked her arms out from under her and ducked beneath her body. With his back pressed against her chest and his shoulders at her belly, he heaves and pushes himself upright. She yelps and snaps helplessly as he lifts her bodily off the ground and tosses her backwards into the air. The throw flings her a good ten feet, but she twists her body around in mid-air and lands unharmed behind him. As he turns to face her, she seizes her opportunity. Racing off in the opposite direction, she gets in close behind him and leaps onto his back. Her legs lock around his waist and her left hand grabs hold of his left wrist, while her right clamps shut around his neck. He gags as she closes his windpipe, and thrashes about in an attempt to dislodge her. Before he can do that, however, she opens her jaws and bites deeply into his right shoulder. Her teeth slice through his skin and dig into the muscles beneath. Blood flows freely from the wounds and trickles from her lips. The taste sets her own blood a boil and she redoubles her grip; biting him a second time and then a third, all the while growling and snarling viciously. The Lone Wolf cries out in pain. His cry is halfway between a howl and a whine, strangled as he is by her grip. His right hand comes up and he grabs hold of her wrist. The muscles of his forearm are clearly defined as his fingers constrict – grinding the bones together and crushing the muscles and tendons against them. Even despite her blood fuelled frenzy, the pain is soon enough to cause her to whine and relax her grip on his throat. Immediately he pulls free. Her jaws, however, remain locked in place. It proves to be a mistake on her part. Having caught his breath, the Lone Wolf charges towards the nearby cavern wall, turns and slams her into the stone driving his injured shoulder into her chest. His far greater weight presses down upon her more slender frame and she opens her jaws in a cry of shock. Her cry turns to scream of agony as a series of loud cracks sound from just above her midriff. Her body goes rigid for a moment and then, winded, she collapses against him as he holds her in place. She whimpers pitifully as his shoulder blade continues to press against her broken ribs. However, when he is certain that she is no longer a threat, he steps away from the wall and releases her. The vae slumps to the ground. Her breaths are short and rapid as she fights to get air into her winded lungs, reeling at the pain that each attempt brings. He meanwhile, firmly clasps his bloodied shoulder. A soft, golden glow surrounds his hand and his brow creases with concentration as he seals the wounds. It only takes a few moments to halt the bleeding and seal the skin, but the muscle will need more time. Satisfied for now, however, he lets his hand fall away and returns his gaze to the injured vae. Still gasping, she manages to lay a hand over her injured flank and whimper a few unfamiliar words. Deep red light escapes from between her hand and her chest and gradually her breathing quietens and her whimpers cease. Her eyes open at last and she gasps as the broken bones are forced back into place. The Lone Wolf frowns as he watches the spell run to completion. Finally she removes her hand and moves back onto all fours. She sighs with relief and contentment and then settles back onto her haunches. Looking up at him, she smiles in satisfaction. ‘You are a rare male,’ she says, smiling, ‘it has been too long since I was beaten into submission.’ She shakes herself, ridding her coat of the worst of the dust. Then she proceeds to lick her injured forearm. Her soft pink tongue cleans off some of the blood and she unashamedly relishes its taste. As she licks, the wounds also begin to heal and are soon quite invisible. She shakes her head vigorously to remove a last few grains of sand and then looks back up at him. Her smile seems gentle and passive; standing in stark contrast to what has just transpired. As she curls her tail around herself, her body adopts an almost feline stance. Her head is cocked to one side as she continues to stare at him expectantly. Her eyes once again roam his body with open desire, but this time his only protest is his firm and silent gaze. She lowers her head in a submissive gesture and flattens her ears back against her head, but when he does not respond she frowns in confusion. ‘Will you not claim your prize wulf?’ she asks, puzzled. ‘What is your name vae?’ He asks, ignoring her question. Her head pulls back in surprise. ‘You wish to know my name?’ she says in disbelief. He nods affirmatively. Somewhat hesitantly, she replies, ‘The vae whom you have beaten, wulf, was named Aoula at birth.’ The name is unfamiliar to him, but that matters not. ‘Now that I have defeated you, Aoula,’ he begins calmly, but firmly, ‘I have two wishes to ask of you.’ She frowns, but motions for him to continue. ‘End your killing of men and give me a chance to show you something more than what our kind live for.’ Her look of disbelief only deepens; tinted with the first signs of fresh rage. ‘You truly came for no more than that?’ she asks. ‘Yes.’ Is his simple reply. ‘You fought only for the sake of such as him?’ she persists, pointing vaguely towards Lord Tewdrig’s battered son. Bound and gagged, his swollen eyes stare out in terror from beneath his bloodied brow. He evidently has no recollection of the Lone Wolf and he struggles weakly against his bonds as he finds himself the object of the werewolves’ attentions. His thin, slightly built frame leaves him looking weak and fragile in the company of such powerful creatures. All in all, he is a wretched sight. The Lone Wolf watches him in silence for a moment, before turning back to face the vae. ‘I came to end the killing, but I have fought both to save him and to save you.’ He says gently. A thousand emotions crowd her face, before anger trumps them all. ‘You wretched dog!’ she barks and leaps back onto her feet, snarling threateningly, ‘Spare me your pity; I will not submit to one so pathetic!’ ‘You stand fast then? You will not honour my victory?’ he asks rhetorically, his expression grim as the hopelessness of the situation becomes evident. ‘I shall never honour a traitor such as you!’ she snarls, readying herself for a fresh attack. ‘Then you would have us fight to the finish?’ he says darkly. ‘To your finish, you cur!’ she snaps ‘This is a duel that you cannot win Aoula,’ he says warningly, ‘you still have a chance; do not let your hatred be your death.’ She laughs mirthlessly at his confidence, then gives a low growl. ‘I too have magic.’ She says darkly. The stalactite above his head breaks free and plummets towards him, but a mere wave of his hand sends it crashing into the wall behind. At the same time he raises his left hand and sends her flying backwards with an invisible blow. She sprawls across the sand, scrambling to get back to her feet. He steps towards her and she finds herself being lifted off the ground. She is thrown into the air and slammed into the stone wall behind. As she falls, a golden light wraps itself around her until she is bound head to toe in shining coils. She tries in vain to break the binding spell, but her magic is powerless against it and the light soon covers her mouth as well. The Lone Wolf walks over to her prone form. There is a sadness in his eyes as he meets her gaze. ‘You cannot win this fight, Aoula.’ He repeats. He raises his right hand and the spell dissipates. She drops lightly to the floor and glares at him, but makes no move to attack as yet. ‘You are right,’ she says coldly, ‘I cannot defeat you as I am. Your strength is too great, as is your magic.’ She snarls, ‘They are wasted on a creature as pathetic as you!’ A frown of deep concentration creases her brow and she closes her eyes. Her fur ruffles in a sudden wind and a strange darkness envelops her. It wavers and flickers, seeming to pass in and out of her body like some evil spirit. The Lone Wolf stands back, tensing in readiness for whatever is to follow. He stares as her body begins to lose its solidity. Her form wavers and shimmers and eventually becomes a translucent shade of her former self. His look of surprise and apprehension causes her to laugh, in a voice which now also seems spectral. ‘Your strength will not save you from me now.’ she says wickedly. Her insubstantial body, surrounded by the flickering blackness, rushes towards him with a sudden burst of speed. Leaping into the air, her clawed hands reach out to him and before he can brace himself she collides with his chest. The ghostly form passes through his flesh, disappearing into his body. His mouth opens in a silent cry and his eyes clamp shut. He can feel her soul invading his mind. It burns like a glowing coal slowly passing through his brain. His legs quickly give out and he falls to his knees. A harsh, guttural scream bursts from his muzzle as she forces her way deeper and the pain grows ever stronger as they push against one another. Then a familiar voice speaks to him. Instead of fighting, he relents and instead draws her into himself. Taken by surprise, Auola pauses in her onslaught. The pain ceases and, for the briefest moment, their minds touch. Earthly vision fades and time slows to a crawl. A stream of memories passes rapidly between the two souls. In one crowded moment the Lone Wolf sees, through Auola’s own eyes, her seven hundred year existence. At the same time, his own millennium long lifetime play across her mind. The sudden rush of images and emotions overwhelms them both. His body goes limp and he topples over onto his side – open eyes staring sightlessly at the ground before him. There is a moment of stillness as each recovers from the experience. He can feel her inside himself; sense her shock. A faint hope surfaces within him. Then she reaches for his soul again. At her touch, his very being cries out in anger and a long hidden rage erupts from deep within him. It rises up from within his mind, reaches out to her spirit and ensnares it in a vice-like grip. She screams in anger and struggles against him, but he drives her out and draws her into a small point of resistance within himself. His body lurches and quivers. Rolling onto his knees, he heaves and wretches as if he were about to be sick. As he gags, the same blackness which entered his body begins to seep from his mouth and pool on the ground before him. It rapidly reforms and solidifies. Finally repulsed, Auola curses as she is forced back into her own body. ‘You!’ she screams, rising to her feet ‘This is what you have become?! Thi…’ His savage bark drowns out her words and his fist slams into the side of her head. Then he is upon her; his teeth bared and his eyes shining with inhuman rage. He lifts her bodily off the ground and throws her across the cavern, then chases after her and hurls her against the wall. Growling darkly, he slashes her stomach with his claws. She cries out as his claws draw blood and dodges the next blow, but finds her left hand caught in his jaws. Whining in pain she claws at his face, but though he releases his grip, he responds by sweeping her aside with a swipe of his arms. She gets to her feet and desperately scurries away as he charges after her. Holding her wounded hand off the ground, she dodges and weaves as best she can, trying to evade him. He keeps close on her heels, snapping and snarling in a mad fury. Suddenly she turns and tries to leap over him, but he spots the ruse and catches her in mid leap. His teeth find purchase on her neck and his claws dig into her back as he wraps himself around her. Turning in mid-air they fall back to the ground, with him landing on top. For a brief second he seems intent on tearing her throat out, but at the last moment he lets go and instead takes hold of her neck with his left hand. He glares into her eyes – blood trickling down his muzzle from the scratches on his forehead – and hesitates once again. Though she looks apprehensively at his bared and bloodied fangs, she does not seem fearful. In fact, she begins to laugh softly. ‘Khrail,’ she says, her voice strangled by his grasp, ‘you show yourself at last.’
  8. It was a busy night in the club. The DJ’s head bobbed up and down like a nodding dog in the back window of a car, while his hands moved the shiny new records back and forth to an unfathomable rhythm. The dull grey haze created by the smoke machines was set on fire by the disco lights; all tuned to various shades of red and pink for the special evening. Through this veil of colour, dozens of enthusiastic partygoers twisted, twirled and gyrated across the temporary black dance floor that had been laid out before the DJ’s stage. Girls and boys mixed it up, moving together or on their own, some passing from one side of the dance floor to the other in an endless chain of short-lived double acts. The singles moved to their own pace much like the rest, whereas the more serious couples stood out as tightly paired points of co-ordination in the sea of exuberant chaos. At the moment, the music had drawn most everyone to the dance floor, leaving the bar and the few remaining tables at the opposite end of the room quite empty. Tonight’s DJ was a special treat: White Sox Fox, a legend from the backstreet nightclubs of the city. He could rip up a tune like no other – so they said. The barman didn’t seem overly impressed, thought that was hardly surprising given the number of artists he had seen perform here, but he still bobbed his head in perfect time as he leaned back against the rather empty upright fridge behind the bar. With the current lull in orders, his partner for the night had nipped out for a smoke, leaving him to keep an eye on things. The other person relaxing at the bar did not move in time with the music. He was seated on the stool at the far corner, out of the way of any of the other partygoers that might come by for drinks. He was a wolf, with dark ashen grey fur. The collar of fur around his neck and the simple patterns around his eyes were slate grey and contrasted nicely with the rest of his coat. His eyes were a rich brown. He sat alone, sipping lightly from a glass of something dark and cold and casually deleting old messages from his hand-me-down flip open phone. Given the sharpness in his eyes, he obviously hadn’t drunk very much or for very long. Although he was clearly filling the role of the inevitable wallflower, he didn’t much look the part. Standing up straight, he would clearly be quite tall and he had an admirable build compared to many of the others young males in the club: broad shouldered, lean and appreciably strong without being bulky. He was neatly dressed in a black pair of slim jeans, a black belt and a black short sleeve shirt, but the well-worn brown leather flip-flops on his feet gave him a slightly more casual air. In addition, he didn’t so much seem disappointed at being left out of the dancing, but rather appeared contentedly disinterested in the whole thing. The simple truth was that he was. Watching the other partiers throwing themselves about on the dancefloor stirred no desire in him to join them. He was quite content to remain where he was; he only wished that this place would hire actual musicians. A beat was all well and good, but real music had a beat and quite a lot more besides. He’d come here with a handful of his classmate friends to celebrate having written the final exam of their third year. Passing was still uncertain, but he very much doubted the others had anything to worry about. They were all extremely clever and hard workers to a boy and girl. Three of the girls were straight A students and looked set to cum laude their BSc. He was a hard worker too, but not in the same league as them and definitely not as much of an academic. He felt uneasy about two of the papers, but he wasn’t going to worry over it. He took life as and when it came. ‘You going to be finishing that one anytime soon?’ The barman leant on the counter, his long and floppy ears not quite touching the wood. ‘I will, I will.’ The wolf replied to the brown and white spaniel with a friendly little laugh, picking up the glass and taking another sip. The barman grinned with mild amusement. ‘You’ve been taking it pretty steady,’ he said and then stuck out his hand, ‘Neil.’ ‘Michael,’ the wolf replied, shaking hands with him, ‘pleased to meet you Neil. You might have to remind me once or thrice – I’m really bad with peoples’ names.’ ‘No problem.’ The spaniel replied dismissively. There was a short pause as he waited for the wolf to say something. When he didn’t, the barman asked, ‘Aren’t you going to join in?’ He motioned to the sea of people on the dance floor. The wolf looked over briefly and shook his head. ‘No thanks. I don’t know how to dance properly and I can’t improvise like them.’ ‘So what? No one’s judging.’ The barman remarked The wolf gave a knowing laugh and cracked a half smile. ‘That’s what they always say. The last time I went with that theory and tried “breaking it down”, as they say, someone told me to stop.’ ‘Well just tell them to f*ck off.’ The barman remarked. ‘I prefer the Sherlock Holmes phrase “Please disappear” myself, but he was right in that case.’ The wolf replied. ‘Come on,’ the barman encouraged him, ‘there’s nothing to it. Just go out there and be yourself.’ The wolf smiled. ‘That’s exactly what I’m doing.’ He replied. The barman leant on one elbow and gave him a disapproving look. ‘Well, guess I know why you’re sitting here alone.’ He remarked. The wolf laughed quietly. He had a feeling that the remark had been an attempt to persuade him to try dancing. It was a silly, and not a little cruel thing to say, but he decided to humour the spaniel. ‘Because I’m too dull to pull a girl?’ he asked rhetorically, ‘If I applied the same reasoning used by less dull people to explain why they don’t fit in with the crowd, I could say that I’m sitting alone because I’m a unique individual and not just some other bloke at a party looking to get sozzled and get lucky.’ ‘Well what are you here for then? If this isn’t your scene, then why come at all?’ the barman asked. ‘I’m here with my friends to celebrate finishing our exams.’ The wolf replied, motioning towards the dancers. ‘But you’re just sitting here alone, I don’t call that celebrating with friends.’ The spaniel remarked. ‘Look,’ the wolf replied, with a tactfully suppressed hint of exasperation, ‘I enjoy hanging out with them as far a sitting together and chatting goes, I just don’t have any interest in doing any of the other stuff. They know that – that’s why they’re off dancing and I’m back here waiting until they finish. We’ll have fun together after they’ve got that bit of partying out of their system.’ ‘So you’re just going to spend half the evening sitting here doing nothing then?’ the barman asked incredulously. ‘Oh, you mean like you?’ the wolf replied, before finishing his drink. The spaniel frowned, obviously a bit put out, but the wolf raised his hand in apology. ‘I’m sorry, but you see my point. Besides, I have no intention of spending an hour counting the beer stains on the floor.’ He reached down beside his stool and lifted up a small shoulder carrier bag. From it he took out a square cardboard gift box with pink stripes, a pair of scissors and two pairs of pliers. The spaniel bartender watched in confusion, waiting to see where all this was going. Next the wolf took out a little knee board and set it down on the counter. He then began to unpack the contents of the pink box onto it. There were lots of little tins and zip-lock bags full of beads, shells, gemstones, balls of wire, string, chain and other bits and pieces. ‘What’s all this?’ the barman asked. ‘Jewellery is one of my hobbies. I often take some materials with me if I know I’m going to have to wait around a lot. ‘And the box?’ the spaniel asked. ‘It keeps everything together.’ The wolf replied matter-of-factly. ‘Yeah, but why’d you choose a pink one for that?’ The wolf raised his eyebrows in private amusement. ‘It’s the right size and it’s nice and strong. The colour doesn’t matter…although mind you, if it had had a rainbow and said “LGBT rules” on the top, I would have thought twice.’ The spaniel laughed briefly at this comment and continued to watch as the wolf began sifting through the materials with a thoughtful expression. He finally selected a spiral shell – which had been cut away on either side to expose the spiral centre, leaving a framework of multiple “chambers”. Setting it aside, he then picked through a small pile of little coils of copper and steel wire. He selected two: a roll of thin copper wire and a roll of equally thin galvanised steel wire. ‘Could I have another double brandy and coke please?’ he asked the barman, reaching into his pocket and taking out a leather wallet. It had the images of two elephants stamped into the cover and had been a present years ago from his uncle in Nepal. ‘Sure.’ The spaniel replied, still looking at the shell and wire with puzzled curiosity. After handing him the money the wolf immediately turned his attention back to his materials. He took the steel wire and pulled it between his thumb and forefinger several times to remove any bends and kinks. Then he held one end against the point of the shell and began threading it through the gaps. He pulled it tight, wrapping it along a groove running through the core of the shell. He hadn’t got far by the time the barman returned with his drink. ‘Thanks.’ He said gratefully, and then went back to what he was doing. The barman watched him for a while, but pretty soon he lost interest and went back to leaning against the fridge and watching the party. The wolf sat working on getting the wire wrapped along the entire length of the shell, then repeated the process with the copper wire. He took his time and tweaked the wire with his nails to try and get it just right. Lastly he bent the tips at one end and slipped them into the last tiny chamber at the narrow point of the shell. He tugged on the wire at the mouth of shell and found that it held fast. A male fox came off the dance floor and made his way to the bar. He was dressed in a loose fitting blue shirt and baggy grey shorts and his fur was snow white. He leant against the counter, slightly out of breath from dancing. ‘Two Ice Blue shots Neil.’ He said to the barman. ‘Sure.’ The spaniel replied and set about getting the glasses and the right bottle from the three long shelves behind him. The fox glanced sideways at the wolf; who noticed, but kept his eyes on his work. When the barman handed over the two blue glasses, the wolf heard the two of them talking briefly to one another. The fox sidled over, holding the two glasses with absentminded care. ‘Hm, looks pretty cool.’ He remarked. The wolf looked up and smiled. ‘Thanks,’ he said, ‘it’s still got bit to go.’ The fox nodded offhandedly and then moved back towards the dance floor. The wolf went back to picking out a cord for the necklace. He settled for a thin leather one, undyed, and took a rough measure by wrapping it around his neck and sliding his fingers down until it reached a length slightly less than what he wanted. A quick snip from the scissors and he began working on attaching the shell pendant to the cord – being very careful to get the pendant as close to the middle as possible. He wrapped the loose ends of the wire around the cord and then twirled the ends into a little spiral, which he pressed flat against the leather. The last step was to add the clasp and the extender chain to the ends of the cord. This took him just a minute or two as he slipped the pieces in place and crimped them together with a practiced hand. He gave the final product a once over and then set it aside. His fingers closed around the ice cold glass and he quietly sipped the sweet yet strong drink. He turned his gaze to the dance floor once more and unseen, he lowered his gaze slightly and sagged back against the wall with a little sigh. “What a strange thing it must be…” he murmured to himself, “…to fit in. Anywhere…”
  9. Oh you're welcome, comments are always VERY much appreciated^^ Oh Serendipity? I wrote that quite a while ago, but it had no response so chapter two has been sitting in my WIP folder for a loooong time. I'm glad to hear you're interested though, maybe I'll revisit it sometime~ I kind of like very controlled and seemingly unemotional characters, hence the appeal of reptiles like Sylth
  10. Well I did my best in this series to make sure that each of the first three chapters left the reader in suspense, so i'm glad that I succeeded. Thank you very much, descriptive writing is an absolute favourite of mine, other aspects such as character interaction I still struggle with somewhat. This series is a historical fantasy, set in roughly 900AD and in an area close to present day Wales. I've done my best to keep the human aspect fairly accurate, while introducing my own magical lore. Most of the key mythical creatures exist in the story world: werewolves, dragons, trolls, centaurs, the leviathans and so forth, but I have written my own origins and mythology for each of them (especially werewolves and vampires) and humans are the dominant species in terms of number and combined strength. I won't give away too much of the backstory here though~ I will post chapter two most likely this coming Friday and later on I may post some of the other short story series that I am working on concerning The Lone Wolf and the antagonist which he will face in the trilogy that I am writing. Many thanks for taking the time to read and to be the first one to comment on one of my stories here, I hope you will enjoy what's to come~
  11. The morning is cool and fresh and clear skies stretch to every horizon while light, autumn breezes whistle through the Fayern Valley. The sun is but a finger’s width above the mountains to the East and shines like a pale yellow flame. The last of the swallows flit through the air, filling the silence with the trill of their calls and the rush of the wind over their blade-like wings. There is neither sight nor sound of a sapient being for miles – though first impressions can of course be deceiving. Mt. Orobaen stands proudly above its brothers; the highest peak in the land. It is not in truth, a titan among mountains, but its sheer and jagged face and steep, smooth sides make it a formidable sight. None but the most agile and surefooted climbers risk scaling its heights and it is for this very reason that the figure seated atop its zenith chose this mountain to be his home. He sits cross-legged in the centre of the small, flat arena carved into the summit. The wind plays with his clothes and hair, while he watches the swallows in their darting flight. His powerful muzzle is as that of the great northern wolves, but larger and more robust. Large ears twitch from side to side as he tracks the sound of the swallows’ passage; their black rimmed tips contrasting with the grey fur of the rest of his head. His fur is short and silky, but grows longer as it flows down his strong neck. It is darker here too, forming a slate-grey collar around base of his neck, which extends down his chest to taper off at the base of his sternum. His lean, human-like torso supports broad shoulders and long, powerfully muscled arms. His hands are large and slender, his fingers tipped with gently curving claws of an unusual pearl-white colour. His legs are of the same length as his arms and an intermediate between wolf and man, for instead of feet he has two very lupine paws, tipped with white claws exactly like those on his hands. A long and luxurious tail snakes out from beneath his legs – dark upon its upper side and light upon the lower. Except for his tail and the collar of longer hair around his neck, his soft fur is short and dense and very unlike that of the average wolf. His clothing consists of no more than a sleeveless snow-white tunic, which reaches to his knees and is bound at the waist by a white band. It is open at the chest and fits tightly around his shoulders. Delicate gold thread traces an exquisite border of maple leaves along the edges. There is also an emblem embroidered over his heart; the image of a weeping dove cradled by tender hands. Unusual leather pads encircle the base of his hands, bound below the wrists by twin straps with small bronze buckles. Each of these “gloves” has a steel plate sewn into the palm and their polished surfaces display a network of shallow scratches. His eyes are human-like and their irises are of an umber brown so dark and rich, that one might mistake them as being black. Although his gaze is set upon the brightly whistling birds, his mind is far away and troubled. The staff resting in his lap and the scabbard strapped to his back, hint at the source of his uneasiness. The former is a rosewood shaft of his own creation – its tip a carved oval into which has been set a ruby of the deepest red. The latter is also of his own making: an elegant leather scabbard holding two four-foot long swords. These have handles bound in umber brown leather, with the hilt simply a small, elegantly curving strip of polished steel. Moving as if half asleep, he unfurls the roll of parchment clasped in his hands. It had been delivered by an exhausted messenger whose cries had shattered the peace of the valley in the early hours of the dawn. Perhaps for the twentieth time he scans the simple, but urgent plea, written in a shaky hand: Great Ulraek I beg you come to our aid, for we are beset by beasts that already have claimed the lives of fifty men and women in not two months. I know not what these creatures be, but the location of their lair I can show to you. All else has failed us. We turn to you as our final hope. Please come without delay! Your neighbour and humble servant, Lord Tewdrig ap Cynfyn He sighs, wishing they would not honour him with his ancient, imperious title. Lord Tewdrig is well known to him, having called upon his services some ten years past. A minor Lord in the Kingdom of Glywysing, the kindly elder is one of the few noblemen whom he feels is deserving of that title. True, the man is perhaps a little tender hearted for such a position, but he has shown surprising devotion towards the people in his charge, as well as possessing a rare sense of justice. Standing to his feet, he makes his way down the narrow, hidden path leading off the summit. As it descends along the vertical face, its uneven surface renders it quite invisible from afar. To his right is a fearsome plunge towards the grassy meadow, hundreds of feet below. He has walked this path many times, however, and feels nothing for the treacherous footing or the sudden drop-off beside him. The path soon brings him to the narrow gash, tucked away between the rocks of the mountain face, which is the entrance to his home. He slips through this thin portal and disappears into the darkness beyond. A lamp flares into life in the far corner. The feeble glow combines with the soft light reflected from outside to dimly illuminate this large room within the mountain. It is easily sixty feet wide in either direction and with a vaulted ceiling that reaches almost forty feet at its zenith. His bed occupies the floor beside the centre of the left wall. It is a simple rounded mattress stuffed with down, but covering almost twelve feet in either direction. A single blanket of white and grey rabbit fur is draped neatly over this. A tall and elegantly carved wardrobe is stood against the centre of the far wall and an expansive brassbound trunk to the left, beside a locked door. To the right there stands a long writing desk, upon which the flickering lamp rests. The wall to the left is adorned with beautiful sketches and paintings of many wild creatures, but the centre remains bare – reserved for some future work. Along the length of the floor below the right wall, a thick bearskin rug has been laid down. The heavy wear upon its surface can be accounted for by the array of well used, but well-kept weapons which dominate the wall above for the first thirteen feet. Every conceivable implement is included. Axes, halberds and spears of many shapes account for the pole weapons, while clubs, flails, maces and hammers account for the bashing weapons. Swords and knives of a hundred different forms account for the blade weapons, and the missiles include everything from the bow and arrow to javelins and darts. Finally, six horizontal racks hold what can only be staves; with a seventh awaiting the replacement of his rosewood staff. Crossing the room, he sets the message down upon his writing desk and then returns his staff to its rack. ‘Not this time.’ He mutters to himself. With that, he walks back to the entranceway and promptly leaps out into the air. Head down, he plummets towards the ground. The wind rushes past him, roaring like a gale as it plays with his fur. He allows himself to accelerate for a time, before reaching out and pressing against the air. His descent slows rapidly and in seconds he touches down lightly upon the dew soaked grass. A final check of the buckles of his scabbard finds them secure and he sets his eyes on the scene before him. The sun is still low enough that much of the valley remains in shadow and the air is cold and invigorating. Mentally planning his route to Lord Tewdrig’s castle, he sets off across the valley at a brisk run. He passes from the meadow into the forest which grows along the course of the river, steadily gaining speed as he builds up to a sprint. His long, powerful legs cover meters at a time and the tendons in his ankles and paws propel him forward with strong bursts. Soon he is flying between the trees, faster even than a stallion in its prime. The sensation of running is almost euphoric to him – a sense of absolute freedom that few other things can provide. Navigating around the fallen branches and low bushes only adds to the exhilaration as he leaps and darts, exalting in the freedom of movement. With a thin smile of satisfaction on his lips, he reaches the bank of the valley’s central river and clears it in one soaring leap. Soon he emerges from the forest and begins to ascend the boulder strewn slope between two of the smaller mountains. He leaps from rock to rock like the surefooted deer; never making even the slightest error in judgement. The rabbits whose burrows lie between the stones, scatter at the sight of him – their ever worried eyes peaking nervously over the rocks to observe his departure. A quiet groan from his stomach reminds him that he has not eaten today, but he ignores it for now. There will be more nourishing meals to be had along the way. Cresting the neck between the two mountains, he immediately begins to descend along the mercifully gentle slope ahead of him. Beyond lie the scattered woodlands, fields and moors of this narrow no-man’s-land; lying along the borders of the kingdoms of Gwent to the East and Glywyssing to the West. Both have called upon him in the past, though it has been some time since he accepted the call to fight for either. In recent decades he has chosen only to protect and never again to help conquer. Disappearing beneath the trees once more, he settles himself into a comfortable pace for the long run ahead. It will be at least three hours before he reaches his destination – more if he is to stop for a meal. The sun has reached its zenith when Lord Tewdrig hears the sound which he has been so eagerly anticipating, ever since he dispatched the messenger that night. With the trumpets still sounding, he rushes from the door of his modest castle, barely able to contain his relief at the sight of the grey and white form coming up the path. As his two personal guards hurry to catch up with him, the elderly Lord runs towards his guest. ‘Bless you for coming Lone Wolf! Please, there is not a moment to lose; let me show you to where the bane of our village dwells.’ Somewhat fatigued after so long a journey, the Lone Wolf is nonetheless conscious and grateful of Lord Tewdrig’s remembrance of his preferred title. At the same time, he also notices the exceptional urgency in his voice. To him, it speaks volumes. ‘Hold my Lord,’ he says firmly, as he comes to rest before him, ‘there is evidently more to this than your message revealed. I would have you be frank with me.’ The man’s frantic eyes widen still further, before he covers his face with his hands. ‘Please, my Lord,’ he sobs wretchedly, ‘I feared I should appear selfish in your eyes to have delayed calling upon you until such a tragedy…it is my son that is newly taken by these creatures.’ When he looks up again, his tired eyes are awash with fresh tears. The Lone Wolf’s expression softens and he lays a hand upon the old man’s shoulder. ‘Show me.’ He says. Lord Tewdrig bows in immeasurable gratitude, then calls to the servant at the castle gate. In moments the boy returns with two ready horses. Lord Tewdrig hurriedly scrambles into his saddle but the Lone Wolf raises his hand in refusal at the offer of a mount. ‘I shall keep up well enough on foot.’ He explains. ‘As you wish my Lord,’ the elderly man says, then turns to one of his guards, ‘may you accompany us then Nechtan.’ The guard is soon saddled up alongside his master and as they urge their mounts into a gallop, the Lone Wolf falls easily in step beside them. They follow the smaller paths between the fields surrounding Lord Tewdrig’s castle, making for a particularly dense patch of forest. A wide path cuts its way through the trees, however, promising easy passage. Once within the forest, the Lone Wolf puts forward several questions to his old acquaintance. ‘How and when was your son taken?’ ‘He is but sixteen, my Lord, but young boys of that age are prone to impulsive acts of bravery,’ Lord Tewdrig chuckles weakly, ‘or should I call it stupidity?’ The old man pauses, seemingly lost in reminiscence. ‘Please, my Lord, tell me what happened.’ The Lone Wolf insists. ‘Oh…I…forgive me my Lord. The truth is, I fear, that my son has grown impatient with me of late. The day before this, he confronted me about my failure to resolve the matter of these killings. I could not pacify his fervour, and he left me in a dark mood. Without my knowledge, he later took his sword and bow and rode off upon his charger towards the beasts’ lair. I followed after him as soon as I heard of his reckless act, but before I had gone much further than this, I met his horse bolting madly up the path towards me, its saddle bare. There was no mark of violence upon it, but it was half mad with terror and I knew that my son had been taken.’ The elderly lord halts in his tale, his voice breaking with renewed grief. Nevertheless, he soon resumes, ‘I dare not hope that he still lives my Lord, but if he does I would give all that is mine to see him returned!’ The Lone Wolf is greatly moved. A father’s love is alien to him, for which reason he treasures it in others. He remembers Lord Tewdrig’s son as a small child, when he last passed this way a decade ago. Even then he had thought him something of an incorrigible youth; his father’s tender-heartedness unfortunately having deprived him of the discipline necessary to bring some measure of level-headedness into so privileged a child. He cannot feel surprised that this fate has befallen the young lord. Nevertheless, a young man’s vices make him no less a person and no less his father’s son. ‘I will do all that I can, my friend.’ He says reassuringly. ‘Thank you, my Lord. Ah…we draw near…’ The path dead ends in the overgrown remains of the quarry which once provided the stone for the construction of Lord Tewdrig’s castle. Cut into a hillock, its steep sides are draped with creepers and shrubs, and stunted trees force their roots into the cracks and crevices of its limestone walls. Lord Tewdrig reigns his horse in, coming to a stop a good hundred feet from the narrow entranceway. The Lone Wolf can see the nervous dread in his eyes and indeed in the eyes of the guard Nechtan. ‘Return home, my Lord,’ he says, ‘it will be safer for us both if I am alone.’ ‘But I would stay and see what has become of my son.’ The elderly lord replies determinedly, though doubt is evident in his eyes. ‘I shall bring him to you, my Lord,’ the Lone Wolf assures him, ‘please, I beseech you not to linger.’ Lord Tewdrig wavers for a moment, but at last he nods in agreement. ‘God protect you my Lord.’ He says solemnly, before turning his horse about and setting off at a trot back to his castle. Nechtan, however, remains behind a moment, ‘My Lord Ulraek,’ he says, his voice lowered, ‘you should know that many of those taken were stolen away during the night, yet no trace of a struggle could be found in their homes. I do not know what creature it is that dwells in there, but for all our sakes keep your swords at the ready.’ The Lone Wolf nods in solemn understanding. ‘Thank you Nechtan. It was wise of you to tell me.’ The guard nods in farewell and then turns to follow after his master. Now alone, the Lone Wolf walks slowly towards the ominous pit. The forest around him is unnaturally still. It is as if the animals themselves knew to stay away from this place. He soon finds himself standing between the cold stone walls. Rubble and dirt crunch softly beneath his padded feet, greatly reducing his chances of proceeding in secrecy. Despite what must have occurred here, there is not the stench of carrion or the usual wastes and detritus associated with some monstrous beast. Indeed, he should not have given this quarry a second glance had he passed it by before now. Except… He pauses. Something is out of place here. Across the way, a small pile of stones sits nestled in a natural alcove. To him, they seem to be just a little too neatly arranged. Treading as lightly as possible, he makes his way towards the pile. Suspecting a trap, he carefully lifts the topmost stone. In the hollow beneath lies a simple white gown. It has been folded, though not exactly neatly, and on it rests a delicate golden necklace. He stares at this strange buried horde and his brow creases in puzzlement. There are a hundred things it could mean, but each new possibility seems more unlikely than the last. Setting the stone down gently, so as not to make a noise, he scans the nearby rock face for any signs of a concealed passage and immediately notices a convenient curtain of ivy low down on the far side of this wall. The tunnel beyond is at best five feet high and only a foot or so wider. It is suggestive, but also a considerable hindrance. To crawl down so narrow a passage – which might be no more than a few feet long or might continue for miles – would leave him dangerously vulnerable to whatever might be waiting below…or lurking above. He could scry the surroundings before descending, but if as seems likely, the creature or creatures possess magical ability, they would undoubtedly sense it. This would be of little consequence to him, were it not for what they might then do to Lord Tewdrig’s son; if he is still alive. Contemplating his options, he glances at the dark passage once more. Perhaps it is necessary. He draws a little way back from the tunnel entrance and focuses his mind. Rapidly his body begins to change. His powerful muzzle sinks back into his face while his ears shrink and change in form. His tail and fur recede into his skin and his entire body decreases in size. The pearl white claws flatten out into blunt nails while his fingers shorten and his paws become feet. His tunic glows softly as it moulds to fit his new body. In not ten seconds the nine foot tall, lupine giant has become a man. At six foot five and with a champion’s build, he is still a powerful warrior. Nevertheless, his smaller stature will grant him greater manoeuvrability in the narrow tunnel. Perhaps surprisingly, apart from the rich auburn locks upon his head, his skin is completely without hair. He checks the straps of his scabbard, but finds them secure. Crouching down, he draws the ivy curtain away from the tunnel and enters it. Although his eyes appear human, his night vision is beyond exceptional. Now the faint rays which filter into the depths are enough to show him that the tunnel continues for only a short distance before opening out into a larger passage, where the faint traces of some other light source can just be made out. Slowly, he begins to creep along the tunnel. He moves on all fours, but with feline grace and stealth. Each movement risks the disturbance of some of the loose stones beneath him. However, by moving patiently, he manages not to dislodge a single one. The light ahead is yellow, deeply tinged with red – the light of a fire. He can smell the smoke, but thankfully it is not laced with the scent of human flesh. There is also a faint sound…a soft rasping. Reaching the bottom of the slope, he finds that the ceiling of the adjoining tunnel rapidly becomes high enough for him to stand upright. Ahead, the passage turns sharply to the left and it is from somewhere around the corner that the flickering light comes. The ground is powdery and soft here and his keen eyes scour it for tracks, but…there is nothing. All traces have been purposefully obliterated by…a broom? No, not a broom – the tracery of thin lines is too smooth and too fine to have been made by something so coarse. But what then? Whatever the answer, there is no time to delay. Preparing himself for whatever may come, he treads gently across the clean swept floor and inches towards the sudden bend. He keeps clear of the walls, as he nears the final step that will take him out of the shadows. Standing on the threshold, he tarries a moment, before leaping sideways into the entrance to the cavern beyond. It is a wide natural gallery, some eighty feet across and with its ceiling about thirteen feet off the sandy floor at its lowest point. To his right there is a bed of torn cloth, upon which a young woman lies. She is clad in a tattered, sleeveless white gown and each of her wrists and ankles is chained to one of the stalagmites which encircle her. Seeing him, she sits bolt upright – the chains rattling heavily. The sickly pallor of her skin is amplified by her unkempt raven tresses, through which she looks at him with a mixture of hope and fear. Then a sudden rasping sound causes her to eyes to widen and she turns her now terrified gaze to it source. He has already seen it. The far left corner of the cavern is dominated by the heaving coils of a monstrous and otherworldly serpent. He cannot begin to guess at its length, but the trunk of its body is at least four feet thick and is covered with smooth, shield-like scales. Its belly is smoky grey, whilst the rest of its body is as black as pitch and shimmers in the light of the small bonfire at the heart of the cavern. Its tail tapers into a long, nimble tip that could easily constrict its victims alone. The head, however, is what truly grabs his attention. Shaped like that of one of the vipers, it is a fearsome sight to behold. Golden irises frame sharp, slit pupils which are locked onto him with cold reptilian intent. Above each eye, a single scale extends back towards the neck, curling upwards and inwards as it does so. These “horns” give the beast a demonic countenance, enhanced as it opens its enormous maw to reveal two lethal forearm length fangs. The needle-tipped ivory spikes drop down from the roof of its mouth; they glisten brightly in the firelight. It hisses malevolently, the writhing of its massive body the source of the harsh rasping. As the serpent slowly begins to uncoil itself, the young woman screams to him, ‘Kill it! For God’s sake don’t let it strike! Kill it! Quickly!’ Turning his gaze from the unfortunate prisoner to the terrible serpent, he raises his right hand and focuses his mind. A shining, transparent sphere forms in the palm of his hand and grows until it fills his grasp. It pulses with energy, giving off a gentle throbbing sound as he raises his arm still higher and sets his gaze upon the writhing black mass before him. He hurls the sphere with all his might and it slams into the ground not a few feet before him, where it expands outwards in a wave of energy which washes over himself, the serpent and the entire cavern... In its wake, the young woman is no longer chained, the little bonfire now burns a merry yellow and the serpent is no more. The young maiden stares at him in surprise. Her white gown is whole again and her once sickly body is now fit and strong. He returns her gaze with a stern expression. ‘I am not so easily fooled.’ He says darkly, A groan comes from the far corner of the cavern. There, a young man hangs chained to the wall by his wrists. His face is swollen and bruised so that his eyes are half shut, and his mouth is gagged. He is naked from the waist up; his braes tattered and filthy but still mostly whole. His gaze meets the Lone Wolf’s, but the damage to his face makes it impossible to read any expression. The young woman laughs; an almost melodic chuckle. Now that the illusion has been broken, her face is radiant and her body has become a picture of vibrant, untamed beauty. Her raven hair, though still uncombed, falls naturally in silky waves to frame her smiling face and her turquoise blue irises shimmer in the firelight as she meets his gaze. ‘So I see now sir,’ she says pleasantly, ‘yes indeed, you are quite the clever one. I had thought my trap so complete that none whom they might send would ever think it false.’ ‘It was too detailed.’ He replies shortly. She smiles radiantly, ‘Was it? Ah, I shall remember that for future reference. What might your name be sir?’ ‘It is you who should be answering my questions.’ He says, his steady gaze never leaving the woman’s smiling face. ‘Oh, how dull!’ she trills, ‘I should love to hear your story my Lord. I am sure it is of far greater interest than my own.’ ‘No.’ he states. ‘Oh, and here I took you to be a gentleman,’ she sighs dramatically, rising to her feet, ‘it is such a rare thing to meet a true gentleman; don’t you agree?’ ‘Yes, it is,’ He says flatly, ‘and it is equally rare to meet a vae who forgets to use her senses.’ The effect of his words is drastic. In an instant, the woman’s jovial, pleasant demeanour falls away and she stands rigid. Her cold eyes fix upon him in a look of shock and displeasure and she searches him with her piercing gaze. Her face contorts with the lines and furrows of confusion. Then she sniffs the air and her eyes go wide. ‘Werewolf!’ she growls. And changes…
  12. From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Todays piece is one for the sea going critters among us!^^ I always enjoy a bit of beach combing - the quiet thrill of never knowing just what little natural treasure the tide may have brought in that day, or even that very moment. This beautifully preserved operculum is made by our indigenous giant periwinkle, the Alikreukel, and has been in my collection for a while while I've been waiting for a unique idea to come to me to turn it into a necklace. So what is unique about this piece? It's a simple enough tube setting...but unlike a normal tube setting, for a cabochon for example, this setting is 'double' set. I filed a sloping edge on both sides and using jet set putty and patience, hammered the edges in till the silver bracket was folded in around the operculum. Keeping with the organic theme, I used the hammer marks as part of the design; lightly polishing the piece afterwards to keep the textured surface. What I like about this piece is it's visual simplicity and the versatility afforded by the contrasting colour and patterns of the back and front of the operculum. It's like two necklaces in one. All you have to do is turn it around and you have a pendant for a different mood or a different outfit. Time taken: 9hrs Cord: silver grey satin Cord length: 62cm Operculum size: 3.5cm tall Price: R1600
  13. Ralen-Lykos

    Knobels Agama

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    The Agama lizards are closely related to the Bearded Dragon and we have rather a few species in Southern Africa. Knobels Agama has a particularly distinctive tail and the quirky curve and subtle spines caught my eye as having potential. Weight of silver = 0.9g Sterling (each) Dimensions = 2.8cm long Time taken = 3.5hrs Price = R910

    © Jeffrey Michael

  14. From the album: Furry Jewellery

    xpanding my reptile inspired collection to include snakes with these slender and elegantly curved Small Dwaf Whipsnake tails. The prominent dorsal stripe on the real animal inspired the beveled edges, adding depth to the design. [SOLD]

    © Jeffrey Michael

  15. Ralen-Lykos

    Barnard's Gecko

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    A spiny tail? Well, why not...why not indeed^^ The real trick though was giving it a different texture to the fur texturing on my mammal tail earrings. - Weight of silver = 0.8g Sterling (each) - Dimensions = 2cm long - Time taken = 4hrs - Price = R975

    © Jeffrey Michael

  16. Ralen-Lykos

    Leopard Gecko

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    I chose the Leopard Gecko's ridged tail as a subject thanks to a prompt from an Instagram follower. They look a bit like little horns don't they? :') - Weight of silver = 0.8g Sterling (each) - Dimensions = 1.3cm long - Time taken = 3.5hrs - Price = R875

    © Jeffrey Michael

  17. Ralen-Lykos

    Water Monitor

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Expanding my tail inspired earrings once more to include our scalie counterparts, beginning with a pair of simple, stylized Water Monitor tails. Very simple plate cut outs with a subtle sloping edge. - Weight of silver = 1g Sterling (each) - Dimensions = 4cm long - Time taken = 3hrs - Price = R750

    © Jeffrey Michael

  18. [Warning: this chapter contains mature themes. Reader discretion is advised] Wind howled through the trees. A driving rain battered against them, weighing down their branches and pouring off their leaves. The full moon, veiled as it was by the brooding storm clouds, did little to illuminate the darkness of the woods and valleys, whilst the lighting that danced across the sky only made the shadows more defined. It was a violent night: the kind that inspired evil deeds and instilled fear in the meek. Above the raging storm, a howl was carried on the winds. The bushes erupted as a black bear tore through the undergrowth, the madness of terror in its eyes. The great beast burst onto the dirt track which cut through the heart of the forest and startled a lone horse. Already terrified by the storm, the creature reared and threw its rider, before galloping off back the way it had come. The fallen rider leapt unsteadily to her feet. Her thick coat was plastered with mud and her hood had blown away and was now snagged on a branch high up in one of the trees. Her yellow eyes looked around wildly. Her face protruded in a slender, draconic snout with slightly raised nostrils. She had small triangular ears and a pair of little black horns which protruded upwards from the rear of her skull. Her features were sharp and covered in tight fitting iridescent scales of green and blue hues. The howling rang out once more and she fled into the forest after the bear. Water poured down upon her. It soaked through to her skin, chilling her to the bone. In the darkness, she struggled to avoid the tree trunks which stood around her like pillars. She didn’t know where she could find shelter, but there was no time to stop and think. She should have kept a watch on the moon! If she had only waited until the following day the roads would have been safe. Tonight was a night for hunters… --- The water pouring over the cliff face threatened to dislodge him as he clung desperately to the slippery stone. His chestnut fur was drenched and his ears and nose were numb with cold. His sodden clothes weighed him down terribly, but he dared not loosen his grip to take them off. How long ago did the first howl sound? The last had seemed distant. Would it be safe to climb back up to the ledge? He squinted through the veil of rain at the little overhang above him. It hid him from sight, but it also obscured his vision of the only level ground within reach. He knew he couldn’t remain here much longer. His fingers were already slackening and his claws would be useless on the smooth granite of the cliff face. He had thought his cave hideout would be safe. When last had werewolves been heard in these parts? Hadn’t they all been exterminated as far as the East woods? They were vicious creatures, nearly unstoppable at full moon. He had heard enough from the other brigands who had sometimes shared his lodgings to know what the monsters were capable off. If he met one tonight, it would probably be more a question of how long he could evade it, rather than whether or not he could actually escape it… Damn it! His feet were slipping! He gritted his teeth and reached up for a handhold to start climbing. He moved carefully. His arms were shaking terribly from the strain and his entire body shivered from being exposed to the wind and rain for so long. His teeth chattered slightly. He groaned as his foot slipped again, but he held on stubbornly. Damn paws! His floppy ears were stuck flat against his head thanks to the soaking the rain had given them, so he could hardly hear anything except his own heartbeat over the raging storm. He looked up at the ledge, now only three feet above him, and water poured into his nostrils. He sneezed loudly, again and again. Great. If there was anything looking for him nearby, it certainly knew where he was now. A final scramble brought him to the edge of the precipice. His snout peaked out over it. There didn’t seem to be anyone there. A lightning bolt lit up the stony mountain slopes and all he could see was rocks and the entrance to his shallow cave. He squinted. A second lightning bolt struck and he could see a little deeper. A third and a forth cut through the sky behind him in quick succession and a dark form was revealed, sitting crouched over the open chest where he kept his takings. The creature was looking straight at him. It wasn’t a werewolf. It was much, much worse than that. He froze and his dark fur went pale. --- Her feet slipped as she tried to stop too suddenly and she found herself sliding down the slippery clay bank of the river. Her eyes went wide as she saw the churning torrent which thundered beneath her, rapidly drawing closer. She scrambled desperately, her short claws digging into the soft earth, searching for something to stop her descent. Her feet hit a rock jutting out of the bank. The impact twisted her left ankle, but she latched onto the foothold in spite of the pain. Now that she was no longer falling, her hands at last found purchase on the slippery roots which hugged the steep bank. Heart racing, she pulled herself flat against the bank. She shut her eyes tightly and just hung there for a while. The water below her seemed to roar just like the very beast she had been fleeing from. The storm had filled it with debris: whole trees could be seen tossing in the rapids, smacking into the rocks with bone jarring force. The sound was terrifying. As the rain continued to pour down on her, even though she was already soaked to the bone, she opened her eyes and stared back up the way she had fallen. Her hands sought out the thickest roots and she tested their strength. The clay filled water pouring down the bank made them treacherously slippery, but she could just keep her grip if she was careful. She stepped off the rock and hooked her right foot in the roots. She did the same with her left foot, moving tentatively for fear of aggravating the injury. The ankle wasn’t sprained, but it was very tender. It could easily slip again. She used her arms as much as possible, hauling herself up the ladder of roots. It was painfully slow going. The waters below beckoned, but she kept her eyes up and her cautiousness paid off as never once did she slip during the climb. The final crawl over the edge of the bank was by far the most nerve wracking part. There were no roots or stones to grip; she had to dig her hands into the soft earth and ease her body gradually onto the level ground of the forest. She pushed herself away from the drop and lay panting on the bed of sodden pine needles. She had not lain there a minute, however, before the chilling howl drifted through the trees that surrounded her. Her head snapped up and she gazed about fearfully. She looked to her left and to her right, but couldn’t think where she should run. She didn’t even know where she was. All she did know was that the call had been much further off before. Upstream should lead into the mountains. The prospect of being trapped there with a werewolf on the loose was terrifying, but downstream meant running over flat ground and open fields, with no hope of shelter until she reached the village of Raven’s Hill. That was where she had been heading and so she knew it would have taken more than half a day by horse. On foot, there was no hope of reaching it before the night was over. She could not outrun the werewolf. She would have to find shelter somewhere and the only likely place would be in the mountains. The beasts were very agile and surefooted, but they were also very large. If she could find a crevasse small enough for her to just squeeze through, it wouldn’t be able to reach her. They were weak in daylight. She didn’t have to out run it, she just had to outlast it. With her mind made up, she took off through the woods, keeping the riverbank in sight. The lightning continued to provide regular bursts of violent illumination and under its harsh light, figures would appear between the trees. She knew they were only illusions created by the shadows, but…at the back of her mind, the thought kept coming back to her that at some point she would be wrong. At some point, one of the ghastly silhouettes would be something that she couldn’t simply shrug off. A startled pigeon burst out of its cover as she rushed past. She jumped in fright, tripped and fell. Her clothes felt like weights as she pushed herself back up and they clung to her restrictively. She decided to get rid of them – it was not as though they were keeping her warm anymore. The black coat came off with a wet slurping noise. Next she struggled out of her loose white vest, which stubbornly stuck to her scales as she dragged it over her head. Her trousers were the last to go. She didn’t waste any time before getting back on the move. She felt much lighter and managed to pick up the pace. The howl cut through the storm again. By the bursts of lightning, she saw the trees giving way to rocks up ahead as the steep foothills of the rugged mountains began. She paused as she emerged into the open and looked up at the scramble which lay ahead. There was no shelter here. She had to go up. The climb was easy enough for her. She wasn’t strong, but she was lithe and nimble and weighed very little for her height. However, there were no caves to be found in the foothills. The steep slopes offered only smooth stone and high crevasses quite out of reach. In the gullies there were several caverns, but all far too large to be of any protection. All the while she was conscious of the ever increasing volume of the werewolf’s calls. It couldn’t be far away by now. Time was running out… When she reached the summit of a smaller peak, she could see the forest below and all the land around by the light of the storm. She had to brace herself against the buffeting winds, from which she had been shielded by the forest trees. The mountain beside this peak was far taller and it had a sheer South face overlooking the mountainous river valley behind. She peered up at it. There was a cave up there, of some kind. There was also a series of ledges which seemed to form a rough pathway to that area of the cliff face. She looked back down at the edge of the forest and then over to the other side of the smaller mountain. Her blood froze. Something was moving down below her; a flash of white, which then disappeared. Then it was there again, moving between the rocks. She ran towards the cliff face. --- Just minutes later, she was hauling herself up onto the ledge outside the cave. She sighed in despair at the sight of its wide mouth, but then a lightning bolt struck and she saw a flash of white out of the corner of her eye. She turned suddenly. There was someone hanging on to the ledge across from the cave. She saw the muzzle and was about to duck back down, when she realized that it was a dog’s muzzle, not a wolf’s. ‘Hello!’ she called out over the din. The canid didn’t respond. He – she thought it was a male at least – was staring at the cave and looked frozen with fright. Immediately her eyes flashed back to it, expecting to see the werewolf inside. There was no one there. Then she noticed a sword lying near the entrance. She glanced at the dog, then back to the weapon. Werewolves’ couldn’t be killed without silver or fire, but they could be incapacitated just as easily as any creature. If it was inside the cave, she had a chance to ambush it. The only problem was…she had never used a sword before. Very slowly, she crept out onto the ledge. Immediately she drew herself up against the wall. She inched closer to the sword. When it was within reach, she bent down and very, very carefully picked it up, terrified that the blade might scrape against the stone and give her away. It was quite heavy, but not so much that she couldn’t wield it easily for a while at least. As she wrapped her fingers around the pommel, she was glad of that one night when she had glanced through a text on swordsmanship. It probably wouldn’t do much good beyond helping her to hold it correctly though. The lightning strikes were still her only source of light, so she peeked carefully around the corner and waited for one to illuminate the cave – ready to pull back in an instant if necessary. Thunder rolled as the last flash died. She waited. Crash! Thunder split the sky as lightning arced directly overhead. She saw into the cave, saw the black skinned creature crouching in the back, and paused. It looked up at her with solid grey eyes and an expressionless face. Her jaw dropped. ‘Sylth?’ It cocked its head to the side. ‘Lyssa?’ it hissed sibilantly. She stepped into the cave, lowering the sword. The creature, Sylth, remained where he lay. His body was lizard-like, but with limbs that were longer and positioned slightly more beneath his body than was typical of most of the quadrupedal reptilians. His skin was black, with a leathery appearance, and was drawn tight across his somewhat bony frame. The black claws on his feet and hands were long and thin. His neck was one and a half feet long, strongly muscled and with two inch long flanges of skin down either side of the oesophagus. His face had a draconic snout with an equine bone structure. Fleshy frills grew in a ring around the rear of his skull and smaller frills lined the base of his jaw. His entire body was sixteen feet long from the tip of his snout to the tip of his tail – and a little over half that length was made up by the whip-like appendage. His face had no musculature and no expression at all, apart from the grey spheres which were his eyes. Even his voice conveyed emotion only very subtly. As she approached him, he watched her with what must have been surprise. ‘What are you doing here?’ she asked, standing in front of him. ‘Hunting a quite persistent quarry.’ He hissed. ‘So you’re still a bounty hunter?’ she asked, He nodded once. ‘Who is it?’ He motioned past her with his snout. Turning, she realized that he was pointing to the pale canid still clinging to the edge of the cliff. She turned back to her old acquaintance. ‘What did he do?’ she asked. ‘Theft, cheating, aiding and abetting, false testimony. Recently suspected of murder.’ His voice was level, with no hint of feeling as he listed the crimes of his quarry. It was a characteristic which had done little to endear him with most people he met, but she had always found him a calming presence for that reason. It was just a trait of the basilisks to appear cold and unemotional. They had their emotions, but their bodies were not well designed to display them. She knew that Sylth also did not care much for words, which was why his sentences tended to be very monosyllabic. ‘What will you do now that you’ve caught him?’ she asked, still distracted from her predicament by the surprise of meeting the old basilisk. ‘The larger bounty is in Raven’s Hill, but he caused more damage for the Vale. I will wait for the storm to end and then take him there.’ The past few hours finally came back to her. ‘Have you not heard the werewolf?’ she asked. He cocked his head and raised a talon to one of the little holes that were his ears. Of course: he had very poor hearing, particularly for low sounds. ‘I did think I heard a howl,’ he replied, ‘but you say it is a werewolf? Is that why you are here?’ She nodded fervently and began to explain… When she had finished, he seemed nonplussed. ‘You don’t seem very worried.’ She observed. Sylth made a noise that could have been a snigger. ‘Give me reason to be.’ He hissed. ‘Have you fought a werewolf before?’ He shook his head once. ‘Then how can you be sure your eyes will work? They don’t affect me.’ ‘I am certain.’ He replied ‘How?’ Lazily, he rose to his feet and twisted his neck, to the clicking of vertebrae. He clambered effortlessly over the rocks on which he had lain. His body moved with an unnerving degree of stealth and precision – another factor which seldom endeared him with the people he met – while his tail snaked across the stone behind him like a black bull whip. He brushed past her and made his way towards the mouth of the cave. Lyssa was confused. When she turned round to follow his path, however, realisation dawned. Very suddenly. The white statue which loomed over her was massively muscular, shaggy, snarling and with claws and fangs bared in preparation for a lunge. The werewolf’s face was turned to her, but its frozen eyes stared up at where Sylth had lain. Behind the bloodthirsty grimace, there seemed to be an element of surprise in its contorted features. Frozen in shock, she returned its vacant gaze for some time. Meanwhile, Sylth prowled around the beasts legs. He investigated his victim like a hound, prodding it with his snout. His inexpressive features contrived to look unimpressed. ‘What will you do with it…now that it’s frozen?’ Lyssa asked, when she had regained her senses. He didn’t reply until he was standing in front of the statue. He cocked his head slightly to one side and was still for the briefest moment. Then he reared up onto his hind legs, bringing his head to the level of the werewolf’s. Lurching unsteadily, he dropped onto the werewolf, clinging to its shoulders with his clawed hands. With a twist of his body, he pulled the statue off balance and sent it crashing into the stone. White shards scattered across the floor as the right arm shattered and the torso, tail and legs broke into chunks. The head snapped free and rolled between Sylth’s legs as he dropped back down. Lyssa was taken aback. ‘Why did you smash him?’ she asked. Sylth turned to her with what might have been surprise. ‘It wanted to kill you.’ He replied. ‘But…isn’t it against your code to smash someone?’ she asked ‘A person, yes. Not an animal; I must eat.’ He took a large chunk of stone from the pile and swallowed it for emphasis. It was how basilisks hunted – they petrified their victims and then bit or broke them into manageable chunks. The statues were not so much stone as they were a more solidified form of the creature’s body. Although the basilisk’s ability was voluntary, they could not reverse the process. Only mages could undo their petrification magic. Sylth left the broken werewolf and walked over to the edge of the cliff. His tail coiled around the hapless canid bandit and hoisted him effortlessly from his perch. Under the pouring rain, Sylth’s tough hide shone like obsidian in the lightning. He carried the statue into the cave and set it down gently beside the fire pit. ‘Stay if you wish,’ he said to Lyssa, ‘I remain till dawn. He stored wood and the coals are hot. There are stolen clothes in that trunk too.’ She had forgotten her nakedness completely. As Sylth curled up on the flat rock in the back of the cave, she routed through the contents of the trunk. Most of the garments were either too small or meant for warmer conditions. She took out a serviceable brown traveller’s robe and slipped it on, carefully ignoring the hole in the left breast and the lingering smell of iron. She looked at her old acquaintance – already with his eyes closed – looked at the pile of white shards and then looked out at the storm… A few minutes later, smoke began to trickle out from the cave entrance. Moments after that, there was a small shower of pale stones off the edge of the precipice. The werewolf’s head bounced against the cliff face, broke its lower jaw and finally rolled between the boulders on the lower slope. With broken ears, snapped off fangs and a chipped nose, it looked a sorry sight when it settled amongst the ferns. ***
  19. [Warning: this chapter contains mature themes of a sexually suggestive nature. Reader discretion is advised] A sigh of satisfaction escaped his lips as he set down his first drink of the evening. The droplets of condensation were cool and refreshing against his finger pads, a welcome sensation after a long day in the studio. The club was only half full tonight, but true to its name, it was filled with that same vibe that drew the young and outgoing to places like this the world over, to bathe in the sensations of the driving music while coloured lights shifted from warm pinks to cool blues, on into the dark purples and reds which blended with the smoke of the cigarettes and vapes to create that alluring, illicit atmosphere where it felt like anything was possible. He could see it as he lifted the glass to his dark lips a second time and sipped deeply from the cool fizzing liquid, feeling the cider rapidly bringing on the mild light-headedness which was at the same time both relaxing and disconcerting. The long wooden counter behind him was stocked with far more potent drinks, a number of which he’d tried before, most of which he couldn’t see the point in drinking. Once you got past the allure of all that was exotic, potent and expensive, at the end of the day he drank for the taste, not the label or the buzz. His long flowing tail swayed slowly behind him, the tip curling ever so slightly now and then as he sat reclining against the warm wood of the bar, dark brown eyes taking in the scenery of the night. Truthfully though…tonight, he didn’t really care for the scenery. Sighing again, this time in mild boredom, he relaxed against the bar and looked casually over the lounge area of the club, seeing a host of other species of both genders moving between couches and tables and generally enjoying themselves in all the ways people did in situations like this. Club Vibez did attract an interesting range of clientele, there was no doubt about that, which was one of the reasons the dark grey wolf had begun to frequent it more regularly. The ever changing menagerie of forms, personalities and styles made for a diverting side show while he relaxed with his evening drink. In addition, it also increased his chances in the game. His eyes of dark earthy brown flickered casually between the females, lingering on those who presented themselves in the most flirtatious manner, but usually passing them by in the end. Physical beauty was on display in abundance. Sometimes very much so. A young leopardess in particular warranted a second glance as she stepped between the black leather couches; her curving hips swaying alluringly in time with the tapping of her white high-heels upon the wooden floor, while her dark blue dress bared all of her shoulders and every last inch of her long and smooth-furred legs. Now and then a flash of white lace would draw the eye to the space between her thighs, but only just as the fabric of her dress slid back to cover it with the following step. Damian set his glass aside and watched the open show with the merest hint of a smirk. He could see the attention she was drawing from other males in the club – and several of the females too – with her carefully revealing dress and the subtle yet sensual movements of her body even as she came over to the bar and set her stylish black handbag upon the counter. Her emerald green eyes finally turned and met his. In the briefest moment he recognized the flicker of a knowing smile and the movement of her eyes over his body, but he simply smiled politely and gave a subtle bow of his head in acknowledgement. The latter seemed to take the leopardess a little by surprise, but she was quickly distracted by the bartender as the lithe and smartly dressed reptile asked casually what she would like to drink. She even had a beautiful voice, Damian thought, whilst taking an interested look at the brushed gold pendant she wore around her neck and the little crystal studs in her rounded ears. Then he turned back towards the club and took another sip of his cider. His own outfit consisted of a pair of neat black skinny jeans and a dark grey long sleeved shirt which he wore with the sleeves rolled up and the chest unbuttoned to the base of his sternum. His medium length fur was neatly kept and ranged from the off-white of his underbelly through various shades of rich grey elsewhere. On his face and muzzle, a mixture of different shades created striking and yet unobtrusive patterns like a natural war-paint. He was well built and athletic without being overtly muscular or heavily toned and wore his raven black hair in a loose plat, extending down to the small of his back and secured near the end by a broad silver band. His other jewellery consisted of a plain white gold band around his left thumb and an elegant rose gold ring inlaid with a line of fine dark emeralds upon his right middle finger, while around his dark furred neck he wore a snug fitting collar of deep burgundy leather with a fine border of gold thread. The tap-tap of the high heels didn’t draw his attention again as the leopardess walked back down to join in the crowd, soon to be pulled away by conversation with a handsome looking stallion, to Damian’s mild amusement. He watched them both casually for some time. Reading the signs with practiced ease, almost idly tallying the drinks and the movement from the bar to the dance floor to the couch as both played the game as if led by some unconscious formula. There were many ways it could go, but Damian recognized the players and before the evening was over, he had little doubt what the outcome would be. … “Would you mind if I join you?” She looked up with a smile and a casual shrug. “Sure, no sweat.” Smiling gratefully, he settled onto the barstool next to her and slid his glass onto the counter as he turned to face her. Her hazel coloured eyes openly glanced over his body and he chuckled as she gave him a knowing look and remarked outright. “Why? Did your date drop you or something big boy?” “I never had one to begin with.” He replied honestly. She was a fennec fox – her short, pale cream-coloured fur partly hidden beneath a long sleeved shirt cut to just below her small breasts and the ripped denim shorts which hugged her waist and her rear tightly. Her outfit was all black, as was the silver studded bracelet she wore around her right wrist and the chunky ring around her left middle finger. The black satin cord around her neck had just one round steel bead as a pendant and she wore a number of small silver rings along the inner edge of her right ear, as well as a pin through her belly button and one through the left side of her upper lip. “Huh, that’s kinda surprising.” She remarked with some curiosity, to which the wolf simply shrugged in reply. The bartender came by to set a tall glass of amber in front of the fennec and as she picked it up in her right hand, she rested her left arm back against the counter. Glancing between Damian and the now more crowded floor of the club as she remarked above the noise of the chatter and the beat of the music, “I’m Amanda by the way. You been here before?” “Damian, pleased to meet you Amanda,” he replied with a nod and a polite smile, “and I’ve been here a few times over the past year or so. What about you?” She shook her head and took a sip of her drink. “It’s a new one on me. Not half as crap as where I used to go though.” “Where was that?” he asked. “Place called the ‘The Pit’. Hmph, it sure as hell lived up to the name. I don’t imagine someone like you would have been there.” She answered dismissively. But he nodded knowingly, “Oh yes, I’ve been there. Affordable drinks, but that’s about all you can say for the place.” “Yeah that’s true, you could get drunk on a fiver there easy.” She replied, giving him a slightly more thoughtful look. “Probably,” he conceded, “I never tried. Only went there twice too, it was rather dull once you got past the madness of the dance floor.” “What, don’t you dance?” she asked. “Ballroom dancing yes, freestyling no.” he replied with a slight smile. He turned away for a moment, looking at nothing very much. The leopardess and the stallion were still sitting on the couch and now the chestnut male had his one arm behind her head and they were leaning in close to one another as the night progressed. “Well if you’re all alone and not here to dance then why the hell go clubbing?” Damian glanced back at Amanda. Then he looked out again. Over the friends and the couples. Over the lovers and the players. He motioned with his muzzle towards the scene and replied in a slightly offhand tone, "Other people do the clubbing, I just come here to relax. To get out of life and routine.” As he paused for a moment, a slight smile came to his dark lips. Amanda looked at him, her own expression slowly becoming one of greater curiosity, especially as he continued, his deep rich voice soft upon the ears yet seeming to resonate inside of her. “Sometimes it’s nice to just sit at the bar and simply enjoy a drink. Letting life go on all around you and just...observing. Being part of the show, but also apart from it." The half empty glass twirled slowly between his fingers on the counter, drawing her eyes to the darkly sparkling emeralds of his exquisitely crafted ring. Her eyes turned back up to his strong face just as he turned back to her, smiling softly as he continued in a gently alluring tone, "And sometimes one is lucky enough to meet someone new and interesting. Perhaps only for a moment, perhaps just for the evening. Or perhaps…for more than just a chat." In the silence that followed, Amanda’s cheeks flushed very slightly beneath her pale fur. She couldn’t bring herself to look away from his eyes. So dark, that by this dim light they appeared almost solid black. Suddenly she jumped, feeling something brush her sandy tail. She glanced down, and saw the wolf’s own long grey tail unfurling from her own and swaying back behind his stool. Looking back up, she saw the gently mischievous smirk upon the male’s muzzle, which turned to a casual smile once more as he turned his back to the bar once more. She knew what was happening. The signs were as clear as could be and his subtleness only made it show more clearly to someone familiar with the game. As she was. Was it the voice? The cool, sureness of his appearance and his posture? His manner? In the back of her mind she knew this was all a game and she knew what he was after. She knew he was playing her. But somehow…that only made her cheeks flush a little deeper as she smiled softly in return and glanced down a little bit shyly, before turning her lithe body to face his larger frame and curling her tail around his own in a brief caress. Damian glanced back at her and in an instant he read her expression and smiled warmly, turning to face her once again and leaning his weight against the bar as they both drew a little closer to one another, looking into each other’s eyes more intently now. “That was almost poetic, Damian. What you just said.” He gave a slight shrug, smiling as he replied, “I was never much good at poetry, but every now and then something comes to me.” “Would that be when you’re working, or when you’re playing?” she asked slyly, earning a gently knowing smirk from Damian as he replied causally, “Both sometimes. I’m a jeweller by trade, so most of my artistic inspiration and my passion is poured into that. But, there’s usually a little left to spare.” “Oh?” she remarked, catching the subtle hint in that pause. His muzzle bobbed slightly as he nodded and then laying his arm upon the counter, he lightly touched the back of her hand with his fingertips. Her blush deepened a little as she felt the touch, so light it was almost like an illusion. “W-what for?” she asked, when he said nothing. “Hmm?” he gave her a questioning glance. “What do you use that…extra passion for?” His soft smile remained unchanged, as he ran his finger tip along the back of her hand and her middle finger, murmuring in reply, “A different kind art.” Her blush deepened yet again. As his fingertip touched the short painted black claw of her middle finger she pulled back just a little, muttering under her breath even as she tried not to smile, “Guess you were just looking for a girl for the night all along huh?” Smirking ever so slightly, he turned his muzzle a little to the side and replied as cool and as confident as ever, “Only if she would like a boy for the evening in turn?” In the silence that followed he could see her sly little smirk turning into a shy, yet excited smile and soon enough her left hand came to rest on his firm chest and they leaned in to one another, pausing only for her to whisper, “Mm, I prefer men to boys…but you just might be in luck tonight handsome…” His gentle smirk faded and his dark lips parted and pressed lightly over her own as the two strangers kissed gently but deeply. Her fingers slipped beneath the fabric of his shirt and moved slowly across his right breast, feeling his toned muscle and the softness of his short grey fur. His right hand traced its fingers down along her side before resting at her waist, just as they both drew back from the kiss and held each other’s gaze for a moment. “Don’t think I’m easy.” She remarked under her breath. “If I did, I wouldn’t be taking my time.” He replied, his hand moving slowly up and around her side to press warmly against her shoulder. A gentle touch, which felt as if it held her there close to him possessively, yet still was gentle enough that she could pull away if she wanted to… But she didn’t want to at all. His muzzle was so close to hers. She could feel his warm breath, slow and soft, flowing through the sandy fur of her snout. The sweet scent of his drink tickled her nose as they looked into one another’s eyes and kissed softly one more time, her hands pressing into his chest as if to push him back, but at the same time her tail curled itself around his own, keeping him close. For a while they simply looked into each other’s eyes. His hand gently dropped down to her hip and he leaned in and placed a tender kiss upon her cheek. Then he leant back a little and rested his weight against the bar once more, while his hand came to rest on her soft thigh. There was something about the way he looked at her in their shared silence. Something so subtle in his features that put her at ease and made her feel…not just wanted – she knew what that felt like – this was different. Even as he delicately caressed her inner thigh with the quiet boldness of a lover, the fact that he had been a total stranger not half an hour ago…no longer seemed to matter. It had to be an act. This couldn’t be real and she made one last effort to break through that cool demeanour as she pressed her fingertip to his dark nose and remarked with a smug grin, “So what now? Are you just going to stare at me and hope I’ll take the initiative playboy?” His smile said it all as he curled his tail around her own just a little tighter and murmured deeply, “Why? Are you getting impatient Amanda?” Her ears dropped back, but he laughed gently as she opened her mouth to retort and he turned to face her fully once again before grasping her hips firmly and lifting her from her seat and into his lap. She gasped in surprise and her cheeks flushed as he wrapped his left arm behind her. He glanced up into her eyes with a gently playful smile, before lowering his muzzle and pressing his warm lips to her bare chest. For a brief moment, she was frozen in place. Before she could speak, he drew back ever so slightly and lifted his muzzle up, placing a second kiss right at the base of her neck. “Whether this goes further is entirely up to you Amanda.” He murmured to her, while the display drew curious and jealous glances from some of the other party goers. She shuddered in his grasp. Her hands which had moved to his sides instinctively to push him away, now moved behind his shoulders to hold him closer as his kiss lingered upon the side of her neck. “F-fuck...what kind of guy are you?” she stuttered under her breath, confused emotions running through her body as she felt this wolf hold her possessively and move his lips tenderly up her neck at the same time. “My own kind.” He replied, as his teeth lightly nipped her left ear. Then drawing back to look up into her eyes once more, he asked simply and with a look that was filled with desire, yet remained gentle and measured, “May I have this dance tonight?” She stared down at him in silence. Flustered, stunned, confused and turned on all at once. Finally she felt a smile creeping onto her lips and her mind was made up. Quickly she leaned into him and sealed his lips with an impassioned kiss for a brief moment. Then looking him in the eye with a subtle smirk, she whispered to him, “I’m gonna head back to my place for the night. So why don’t you come along…and show me what you can do, boy?”
  20. Ralen-Lykos

    Half Cent Ring.jpg

    From the album: Other Jewellery

  21. Ralen-Lykos

    Other Jewellery

    These are my pieces which are not specially furry themed, so I will only keep a few of them here, but you can find all of my pieces on my Facebook business page or on DeviantArt
  22. Hi there all, this is my first time getting involved in any kind of online club so...I hope I won't make any faux pas^^' My irl name is Jeffrey, my fursona's name is Damian. I'm 23, born and living in South Africa. I work as a field guide while building up a private business as a jewellery designer and manufacturer. I also write furry literature, sketch a little, sing, do impressions...basically I like to explore art and keep busy with good creative hobbies~ I regard myself, now, as...'un-labelled'. A recovering trans I suppose you might call it - I don't mean to offend anyone, I just have independent views on sexuality and gender according to what I've observed in my own life and the lives of others I have known. Until about two years ago though, I hated my male body and felt like I wasn't 'manly' enough to be a male. I dreamed and longed to have a female body and went through a lot of despair and uncertainty, feeling like a stranger every time I looked into the mirror. Over the past few years, however, I've been reflecting on and working through these thoughts of hating my body and gender and feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, coming to understand where they stem from (briefly: social stereotypes and preconceptions about what traits are male or female, which popular culture ingrained into me) and why I was so obsessed with them. I'm still learning, but it's been a tremendous release, choosing and learning not to base my identity or behaviour on my body, or to feel defined by sexuality. Pronouns...whichever you wish; 'he' and 'him' are the most biologically and grammatically appropriate. I'll take no offence to being referred to as female though. Have a blessed day and love to you all.~
  23. Ralen-Lykos

    Barn Owls

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    Commissioned by our handyman for his wife~^^ These two are hand cut from silver plate, with simple detailing added using files and dremel bits.
  24. Ralen-Lykos

    Zebra

    From the album: Furry Jewellery

    These took quite a little design work to get right...I never knew Zebra tails were so variable! >~< [SOLD]
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