Rogue Hunters

A Rurislovan Story

By George Woodruff


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The sky was overcast, rain imminent and so Carlos rode with his hood down and his hat off, smiling as the breeze gently tousled his hair. Akula smiled at him, watching his long silken silver locks rippling like banners in the breeze. Her smile froze as both he and she sensed something on that breeze. They locked eyes and nodded, she dismounted and handed him her reins. She walked ahead, scenting the air, and when she caught the scent again, stronger this time, she began to strip, tossing him her jacket and webbing, then her tunic, then each of her boots, then her trousers, finally her undergarments. These he stowed away in an empty saddlebag while she began to transform.

The hair on her body sprouted like wildfire, bathing her body in fur of tawny browns, black and greys. Her hands and feet changed, the pads of her digits hardening, the nails narrowing, the palm and heel elongating as her face likewise did. In less than a moment she had transformed, where once a naked woman had stood, a wolf now paced scenting the air. Carlos then drew his submachine gun and they advanced. Akula racing ahead, scenting the air, her eyes and ears watchful for traps and snares.

An electrical, metallic smell slid across her senses and she whined a warning to Carlos. He paused, put on his goggles, pulled up his hood, and set his hat so that his face was covered. She then stepped off the path that they had been following and disappeared into the undergrowth. Carlos lowered his weapon, riding as if he were nearly dozing. The trap had turned.

Through the smoky lenses of the goggles he saw the pre-ignition spark of the lamp, his irises flinched despite his long years of training and expertise. Ultraviolet radiation was always a hazard, even when protected. He let the light come to life slowly raising his hand to ward his face with shadow as a mortal might. Their prey could not see his face, could not see that it was covered.

"Huh! Hey! What's going on?" he shouted, feigning shock and surprise.

"Who goes there?" challenged a voice.

"What? Huh? Who is that?" Carlos mewled.

"Stand and identify citizen!" the voice called. Carlos smiled behind his mask.

"Uhm... I'm Carlos Santiago, what is this all about?" he pleaded.

"Patrol!" barked back the voice. "We're looking for brigands and highwaymen. Take your hand away from your face so we can see you."

"Of course sir," Carlos replied meekly and as his one hand dropped, his other raised and put a bullet into the lens of the lamp. The darkness was sudden, but he and Akula had lightning reflexes, including pupil dilation. While the would be ambushers suddenly had to switch on night vision goggles, Carlos tore of his protective ones with one hand and pumped a round into the knees of each man closest to him. He could hear others turning and running, but that availed them naught, for Akula had circled about and was now, in lycanthrope form, knocking them senseless. There was the brief sound of gunfire and a spray of bullets ripped through the trees. One hit Carlos in the chest; he ignored it as he rolled out of the saddle and toward his foes. Gunmen shrieked in pain and anguish as each of his shots found its mark, either in the knee, leg, groin, arm or shoulder. Soon he was standing over six men writhing in pain on the ground. Akula stalked into the clearing dragging or carrying four more. Carlos tossed her his weapon and began binding the hands of each of the men.

They were dressed in paramilitary costumes, hunter camouflage, Carlos snorted derisively. He knew these types; these were the sorts that gave his usual prey the 'justification' for their crimes. Human Supremacists. 'Bah,' he thought to himself, such attitudes were the bane of the world.

Once they were all trussed and their wounds tended to, a call was put in to local command. A dragon and a squad would be dispatched immediately. Within a quarter hour they had finished their report, catalogued the perpetrators' gear and were considering having light refreshment when the dragon back winged down from the skies and set the squad down about her. She transformed down to human size and approached.

"Major!" Carlos and Akula saluted.

"Captains." She returned the salute; she nodded toward the 'hunting party'. "What have we got here?"

"Human Supremacist Hunters, Major, a multinational group, two Americans, three Britons, one Canadian, a Czech, a German, a Hungarian and a Pole."

"Quite the crowd, how are their wounds?" she asked as the squad shackled the men's legs together with chains. Those that had been shot in the leg would be flown out, but the rest would have to walk, carrying most of the evidence. Lieutenant Valarga, a Troll leered evilly at any of the humans who made any protests.

"Superficial, strikes were made to debilitate, not to maim," Carlos replied.

"Your reports are ready?" she asked.

"Yes Major." Carlos handed over his, Akula, hers.

"Good work you two, I like to see this kind of expertise, keep up the good work." They nodded at the compliment and then when she dismissed them, returned to their horses and prepared to leave. Akula changed back into her human form slowly as she dressed, first drawing on her underwear and t-shirt then her trousers and boots, then tunic and finally her jacket and her webbing.

The moon was rising as they rode down the road, heading for the town of Troyskaya. They smiled at each other and lifted their voices in quiet song, filling the night air with their melody and harmony, all the while listening for other perpetrators of crimes against sentience.


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Rogue Hunters ©2003 by George Woodruff

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