1 – Forest and Friends
Tourke raced through the dark woods looming around him, panting with exertion, and staring straight ahead blindly, not really looking where he was going. He’d been this way many times before and his natural instincts kept him from straying from his intended path even though he wasn’t thinking about it. Distant thunder boomed with a loud dull thud that seemed to roll on for ten seconds or more, but the teenage boy was oblivious to it, and didn’t notice that there was no accompanying flash of lightning due to the thick canopy above. He ran between tree trunks that grew ever steadily closer together, and small branches gripped at his sleeves and hair, tugging him slightly, but not diverting him from his path.
Eventually the trees began to thin out, and the foliage above started letting some low light through to help him see his path. He could see well enough in the dark but now, as he drew near to his destination, he started to look around so he didn’t miss it. As he caught sight of the sky, he saw that it was the pale yellow moon in the sky, straining to break through the thick cloud cover that was lighting his way. The smaller blue moon that traditionally gave a brighter light was nowhere in sight, either in its nadir, or hidden by the black clouds.
He heard the boom this time, and his head tilted at the sound, realizing that a large storm was really coming down miles away. He sniffed at the wind, scenting the dark rich loamy smell of the storm hitting him right in the face. It was headed his way but he could sense it was still some time away. Distracted by the weather and looking away from where he was running, he tripped over a thick tree root that had emerged from the ground to the side of the barely visible path he had been following. He landed on one knee, bounced up and somersaulted over and over, rolling in a ball until he came to rest, painfully, against the thick trunk of a redwood that guarded the path forward. He groaned hoarsely, clutching at his elbow and then his forehead. His fingers came away bloody and he screamed with a rawness that belied a pain and frustration that had been burning through him. He looked up at the sky above and screamed hoarsely again, but this time with words, “What is wrong with me!?”. His voice chose to break awkwardly halfway through the phrase, betraying him at just the moment he needed to express himself. He paused, kneeling at the base of the tree, his chest heaving, large pants of breath coming from his mouth. Tears streamed down his cheeks and he sobbed with large shuddering cries.
After a minute, he settled enough to gather his feet from under him, and sighed heavily, muttering the same words under his breath and pushed off the tree to continue his run, although now a little more circumspectly.
He finally arrived at his destination without further incident, face covered in a myriad of dirty trails of tears, and his arms covered in a similar number of scratches and streaks of mud from his fall. He wiped at his cheek and came away with a mix of blood, dirt and tears, which he then rubbed from his hand on to his sleeve.
He slowed to a walk and entered a clearing, revealing the start of Gruff’s Edge, a cliff that overlooked the village he belonged to. As he came to a stop near the edge, he felt a familiar inner peace filling him, almost as if he were a large jug, receiving a calming, warm liquid. He surveyed the sight in front of him, making out the various homes and buildings of the inner part of the team easily under the now fully visible yellow moon, named Remus by his people. He looked out at the outskirts as the homes petered out into the distance. He has discovered this particular viewpoint when some years ago, and from that point he had found a mysterious peace that came over him whenever he returned. So, on this night, when he was feeling so betrayed by the world, he had naturally come here, where he had hoped he would be able to calm down.
It didn’t settle him completely. He felt the same inner peace, but he still felt the wrongness, sitting in his stomach, the sensation that he was somehow off. He looked up at the large pale disc and asked aloud, “Is there something wrong with me? Please let me be normal. I don’t want to be a freak! Please!” His words trailed off into a hoarse whisper and his shoulders slumped, almost as if the lack of a response from the moon had defeated him.
He laughed bitterly. Who was he even asking the question? Who was he begging an answer from? He didn’t really know who he was directing his confusion and frustration at, he just realized that he had no idea what to do next. The news he’d just heard was devastating to his sense of being and wanted someone to reassure him that it would be okay, but he didn’t know who he could turn to.
Maybe his suspicions were unfounded.
Perhaps someone would be able to help him through this time.
** Two hours prior **
“Tourke!” came the voice again through his window. “Tourke, I know you’re up there! Get out here, it’s important!”
He groaned as he woke, lifting his head from the pillow and looking towards the open window in his bedroom. The voice called again, and now that he was conscious, he recognized it as his friend.
“Gustor?” he called back in a low voice. He raked back his tousled long hair from his face and sat up slowly. By the level of the candle in the corner of the room, he’d only been asleep for an hour or so.
“Tourke! Get out here!”
He walked over to the window and sure enough, Gustor was standing by the old tree in the back yard, lit by moonlight and the lanterns that hung in the rooms downstairs.
“What are you doing here? It’s way past curfew!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, but I’ve got something important you’ve got to see. Something life-changing.”
Tourke and his friends occasionally snuck out of the house after curfew to hang out, play some night games and just talk about life. But in recent weeks they’d put a stop to it while they studied for their final exams. And Tourke had been so tired recently he’d appreciated the break, falling asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow and not waking until the sun streamed in on his face the next morning (and Erl forbid it if it were overcast, because then it usually required one of his parents to wake him).
“Does it have to be tonight?” he grumbled.
“Yes, come on!” Gustor called out in reply. “Quick before someone notices all the noise I’ve been making.”
“Fine, fine! You know if you wake my mother, she’ll bash my father with her cushion until he wakes and comes to check out the disturbance.”
Gustor grinned evilly, his teeth gleaming in the moonlight, “Well you’d better hurry up then, hadn’t you? I’ll give you to twenty and then I’m going to start imitating Councilor Haerk!”
Tourke ducked back out of the window, gathering his clothes together and quickly changing into something that would protect him from the cool night air. Dressed, he slipped out the window and down the thick vines that grew all over the back wall of his home. In just moments, he’d regrouped with his shorter friend, who was grinning ear to ear.
“So good of you to join us here this evening,” he said grandly, “now let’s go, Adir is waiting for us.”
“This better be good,” grumbled Tourke.
“Oh boy, you better believe it,” said Gustor with a chuckle, “just wait and see.”
The two friends turned to the narrow gap in the fence that Tourke’s father would say he needed to fix every now and then, but with a small knowing wink at Tourke.
As they squeezed through, Tourke chuckled and said good-naturedly, “It must be good if you’ve managed to get Adir out of bed!”
There was an almost indiscernible pathway leading along the back fence and down through a copse of trees. Soon they arrived at a shack made from cobbled together boards, branches and stone. It had taken the three of them almost a decade to get their hideaway into this form and while the outside looked ugly, the inside was luxury for three teenage boys. Tourke entered before Gustor and saw the tall, darker skinned teen lounging back in the pillows along the back wall. The room was lit by a single candle but it was more than enough light to see by after the walk in the darkness, and Tourke could see the taller boy’s smile of greeting easily.
“So, Gustor was able to get you out of bed, huh? I would have thought the only thing that would have kept you from slumber these days would have been the prospect of seeing Patty…”
He trailed off with a grin at the look of feigned discomfort that flashed across Adir’s face, who retorted, “Well, you’re sleeping like a bear these days, so even the prospect…”
He didn’t complete his insult as Gustor interrupted, “Boys, boys, me. This meeting is all me.”
“You’re right,” said Adir, and then looking at Tourke, he shrugged, “when Gustor calls, you come. If you don’t, he just keeps on calling. Besides, he said the situation was life changing, so that piqued my interest.”
Tourke raised his eyebrows and turned to Gustor. “Life changing. You said that to me too. Well that does sound important. Okay then, reveal your oh, so important news that has get me out of my bed. I mean, I love hanging out with you both, and this place has so many memories, but our tests are coming up in just a few days and I need to be ready.”
Gustor grinned and said, “oh master, your wish is my command.” He rolled his arms elaborately and bowed deeply.
Adir snorted while Tourke tapped his foot impatiently.
Gustor continued, standing upright, “Tourke Reville, Adir Komani, may I present to you both, the amazing, the talented, the I-want-to-be-him, updated version of Gustor Bruik!”
With another flourish, he pushed his chest out and spread his arms wide. After a moment, his body started trembling, and the other two leaned forward excitedly, guessing what was about to happen.
The skin on his hands started rippling along his fingers, then the back of his palms and spread up his arms. Fine blond hairs sprouted sparsely along his forearms and then biceps, but then were followed quickly with a thickening mat of fur along his limbs, as his body started contorting, muffled clicks that were telltale noises indicating joints dislocating and bones reforming into new shapes.
Gustor’s fingers elongated and long talons stretched out from the tips, curved wickedly and designed for rending. His arms bent at different angles, either shortening or elongating as the teenager’s body changed shape.
The other two were mesmerized by watching their friend’s form change, and Tourke heard Adir whisper, “The Change! Cool!”
Tourke nodded slowly, still hypnotized by the spectacle in front of him.
The changes in Gustor’s body continued, now moving to his torso and becoming even more pronounced. His body grew longer and he had to fall to all fours to accommodate for the change in balance. Gustor wore the traditional clothing of the Wolfonne people, baggy shirts with loose sleeves that could almost be described as robes, and long pants with elastic waists to accommodate for a sudden increase in size if the need should arise. And it appeared in Gustor’s case, that need had indeed arisen.
The teenager’s form continued to change shape, a thick pelt of white fur covering his body, and he grunted at the discomfort and pain he experienced. A long, hairy blond tail poked out from around his back and waved slowly in the air as he regained his balance and stood back up to look at his friends. He remained in the naturally hunched over form that all three of them had seen many times in the adults of their village. They knew it allowed the Wolfonne to be able to fall quickly to all fours to cover ground much faster than if they stayed on two feet.
“The piece de resistance!” Gustor croaked at them as his smile contorted into a grimace. His face began to deform, his nose elongating into a snout and formed a little wet black canine nose on the end. His mouth opened wide and his teeth grew into fangs, and his mouth grew long. He closed his mouth, but the fangs pushed his darkened lips apart in places.
The entire metamorphosis had taken just a few minutes, but Gustor stood panting at the exertion, looking at them. It was still unmistakably Gustor, the eyes had the same look of humor about them, and the color of the fur was identical to Gustor’s natural hair color, but it was now Gustor in full Wolfonne form. He stood up a little more, looking at the others levelly, and said in a guttural Gustor voice, “It happened! The Change!”
Adir whooped and ran over to slap their friend on the back, “Way to go, Gus, that’s amazing!”
Tourke was also excited for his friend, knowing that The Change was a sign of maturation amongst the people of Yarronton, and Wolfonne depended on it as a way of knowing you were imminently entering adulthood and would soon join the town’s workforce. In essence, The Change was the physical manifestation of you becoming a true member of The Pack. And that, Tourke thought sadly, was the problem. Until you Changed, you weren’t considered a full member of the pack, but a child. Worse, not just a child, but the Wolfonne did not accept you as a true Wolfonne until you had Changed. While they loved their children, every parent had a small amount of reservation because there was always a small chance, almost non-existent but enough that it was there, that they would not go through The Change. He bit back that sadness and smiled softly.
Gustor looked over at his friends and said excitedly, “What do you think?” He pranced from one hind leg to the other.
Adir said “That’s so great, Gustor, and you look amazing!”
Tourke nodded hurriedly, burying the frustration that was threatening to take hold under a facade of happiness. “Gustor, you look amazing. It must feel good to have finally experienced The Change!”
Adir went on, “Looking great, Gustor, and blond too. The girls are all going to want to talk to you now, they’ll probably find it hard to keep their hands off you!”
The wolf-like form looked, if it were possible for a wolf, shy and embarrassed, “Do you think so? Do… do you really think they’ll like me, Adir?”
Gustor had had a tough time with the girls of the village, because of his size and his unusual coloring.
Tourke punched his friend softly on the shoulder, knowing instinctively what his insecure friend needed to hear. “Certainly, Gustor, you’ve grown at least six inches, and those ice blue eyes of yours look incredible in that Wolfonne form! They’re going to chase after you hard! And all blond? Wow, I think you’re the first in a generation.” There were several other Wolfonne who had mottled fir, so the blond fir wasn’t unusual enough to raise questions, but it was rare to have all blond hair.
Adir laughed and waggled his fingers, “they’re all going to want to have little blond Wolfonne babies once they see what you look like.”
Gustor blushed, the darkened flesh of his jowls showing through his fur.
Tourke wished he could Change. It was the all-consuming thought these days. As they approached the expected age of maturation, between their sixteenth and seventeenth years, every teenager became more and more self-absorbed until they could show The Change and be considered one of The Pack. Tourke had yet to Change and having his friend Gustor do it in front of him, hurt more than words could say. When would he change? What would HE look like as a Wolfonne? He’d been waiting for it for almost a year, and he was getting close to his seventeenth without even a twinge.
Adir’s voice broke into his thoughts. “Hey brothers, speaking of cool things, check this out!”
Tourke looked over as Adir held out one arm, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. After a moment of concentration, his hand formed into a Wolfonne paw with talons, and his dark auburn fur sprouted on his forearm. Nothing else changed in his body, the rest remained in human form, and he grinned at them both broadly.
“That’s amazing!” gushed Gustor, “How much control do you have?”
Adir shrugged. “Not much thus far, I can change either arm from about my elbow down, but it’s nice being able to grow my talons when I need them, certainly has been helpful for the kitchen. The thing is, if I try to do anything else, the full Change occurs and I end up on all fours.” He grimaced, shook his head and closed his eyes again. Soon his hand returned to normal and he looked at them.
Gustor closed his eyes, obviously concentrating but nothing happened. He let out a soft whine and opened his eyes again, the startling ice blue color glittering in the candlelight.
“You just have to wait it out, Gus,” said Adir, “You know that at first you have to let the adrenalin seep out of your system, and then you’ll revert naturally.”
Gus nodded, slightly dejectedly. “Yeah, I know, but I was hoping.” He sighed, but the expulsion of air caused his lips to flutter and his friends laughed uproariously, Tourke momentarily distracted from his inner depression.
Gus laid his Wolfonne body down on the rugs on the floor and looked up hopefully at Tourke.
“How about you, my friend, any sign?”
Tourke looked away and said softly, “no, nothing yet, Gus. I’m getting worried. More than a little worried.”
“You’ll be fine!” said Adir quickly, seeking to reassure his friend, “Some people don’t Change until extremely late in their seventeenth year.” He glanced at Gustor with warning to be quiet. “They’re - whoever they may be - obviously saving the best until last and you’re going to be glorious.”
Gustor nodded vigorously, “That’s it, Tourke, you’re going to be a huge Wolfonne,” hinting at the large framed body Tourke had grown in to, “something that epic just takes a little more time, that’s all.”
His friends were right, Tourke knew, but it didn’t lessen his concern much. He did indeed have a large body, standing nine inches taller than Adir, and almost a foot taller than Gustor, and a big barrel chest and muscles that were the envy of many adults. “Yeah, I know, but you know what happens to people who don’t Change.”
He didn’t mean for it to come out as a whine but the others detected melancholy in his voice. All three shuddered at the thought of someone not experiencing The Change. No one said it aloud, but all three remembered the line from the town laws, “If a member of Yarronton does not experience The Change by the date of their seventeenth birthday, they will be Exiled, and not considered true Wolfonne. They will be forbidden from re-entering the town, and forever excluded from being part of The Pack.”
“You’ll be fine,” repeated Adir, “you’ve got two more months to Change and we know it’ll happen.”
Tourke nodded slowly, feeling slightly mollified by his friend’s reassurance. He turned the conversation back to Gustor’s change, and soon the three of them were talking animatedly about blond fur, girls and what this might mean for Gustor’s future in Yarronton.
After about an hour, Gustor had calmed down enough and reversed the process of his shapeshift, soon kneeling in front of his friends in human form.”
He groaned and shook his body out.
“You’ll get used to it,” said Adir, “over time, the sensation won’t hurt s much and you’ll recover faster too.” They all knew it to be true - the sinews, joints and bones became more fluid and The Change began to feel more normal.
The three friends embraced each other and promised to regroup in the morning, each setting off to their homes.
Tourke waited until he could no longer see Gustor and turned away from the path that led back to his house, and instead headed for the forest. He needed a space to be by himself and think and he needed to calm the despair that was bubbling around inside. His brisk walk turned into a jog, and then into an uncontrolled sprint, hoping to make it to the cliff before that despair consumed him entirely.
Tourke looked out over Yarronton, the village he had grown up his entire life, and felt like a stranger. He thought again about what he’d witnessed just a short time ago with his friends and worried over his own lack of change. What if it never happened for him? He truly would be a stranger then, outcast from the people that he had spent his life with, laughed with, learned with. Every Wolfonne was keenly aware of their age until they hit maturation. He was counting the days down to his seventeenth from the moment he turned sixteen, ten months prior to tonight. He looked out over the village to the gentle hills, lightly forested by big old trees behind, that bordered it on either side. In the distance, behind the village the moonlight glistened on the waters of the Agate River, which formed the outermost boundary of Yarronton. Only fully Wolfonne, and a rare few that had permission, were permitted to leave the town past that point, and most children burned with curiosity at what was beyond.
Tourke thought back to some of the stories his friend Adir had recounted from his travels to the town a few days travel away. Rhean, it was called, and supposedly it was peopled by a variety of different shapeshifting races, not just Wolfonne, but Tourke secretly thought Adir might be pulling his leg. The only non-Wolfonne he had ever seen was a trading team that came twice a year and who were restricted to an outsiders’ inn on the outskirts of the village. He’d never seen them change, but they did smell and look a little different to any other Wolfonne he’d seen, and that was considering Gustor’s pale complexion and Adir’s swarthy one.
Again looking at the village, he started to feel that peace fill him. He could see the glint of the torchlight from the watchtower that signified where the bridge across the Agate was, along with a few lamps lighting the main streets, and flashes from a few houses here and there. This viewpoint always helped him understand his place in the world, his place was here with his family, friends and other Wolfonne and he had always assumed he would find a place here. But while he was feeling calmer, he did still have those darker emotions that were threatening to consume him; stress, depression, frustration, anger.
The comfort he always felt at seeing this view was lessening as his time ran out. And he had a secret that made him even more concerned about The Change, one that no one knew, not even his parents, not even his closest friends. He replayed the meeting with Adir and Gustor in his mind and the final words that had been intended to be reassuring, “you have plenty of time, you have two whole months left yet.”
However, Tourke now knew that might not be true. His parents had been quizzing him subtly, and not so subtly, about The Change over the past few weeks. This broke with the long held Wolfonne tradition that people were not to talk to you about your own personal Change until you had gone through it at least once. This was to avoid awkward situations where someone may not Change and need to be Exiled, but it also meant that if a teenager felt insecure about The Change, they were the ones that had to instigate any conversation. So for his parents to ask him outright about his Change was highly unusual, and with his father being one of the town council and normally a stickler for the rules, Tourke was actually more worried than reassured by their own concern. There was one explanation, however, and one that filled him with a sense of dread. The council was permitted to question a teenager who reached seventeen about their Change, particularly if they had not shown it off in public. This was the start of the process. If the teen in question could not show their Change, then the countdown for Exile began.
Tourke was beginning to wonder if maybe he had hit seventeen. That would give his father permission to question him. But it wasn’t possible, was it? He had been brought up his entire life knowing his birthday was the fourth of July, and why would they lie about it?
Why lie indeed but it was possible he thought dejectedly. He recalled fragments of a disturbing conversation he’d overheard between his parents. First he heard his mother say, “Brandon, he hasn’t changed yet. You know what that means”. Then a short moment later after an unintelligible response from his father, she said, “but what if we got the date wrong?” That was the key phrase. What date was she referring to? Putting the various pieces of the puzzle together and Tourke was forming up a genuinely concerning picture, one that could be devastating to him.
The seeds of doubt and worry had been planted with those words almost two weeks ago, and coupled with several other things, including having no sensation of The Change, and now Gustor Changing, and he was worried. Gustor’s Change meant that there were only a handful of children in the entire village that were his age that hadn’t shown their Change publicly, Tourke included. He took a deep, shuddering breath of the chilly night air and let it seep through him, the mysterious calm he felt whenever he sat at this spot replacing some of the doubt and shame at not Changing.
No one had been exiled for some time, Tourke knew. In fact, the last person to be exiled was a great uncle of Tourke’s by the name of Rexor. Rexor had reached seventeen without showing The Change and had been called in front of the full village council. They followed the traditions of Exile and demanded that he change for them. When he couldn’t show them he could metamorphose into full Wolfonne form, he had been Exiled from Yarronton. But the reason why Tourke, and every other child, knew of Rexor wasn’t because of his Exile, it was because of what happened afterward, which concerned Tourke even more than the Exile itself.
Rexor had gone insane at his body’s inability to Change. The Wolfonne blood and hormones had coursed through his system, trying to force the shapeshifting process, but something blocked it, resulting in Rexor’s mind being damaged. He turned murderous, killing indiscriminately. They had found carcasses of various animals and had paid little heed, but one day he had attacked and tried to eat, a small caravan of traders. As a result, Tourke’s own father led a search party to find the insane exile and deal with him. The squad refused to talk about what they had experienced when they returned, but there were no more sightings of Rexor, nor any more animal remains found other than what you would expect to find in nature. To this day, Jonkur walked with a limp, a chunk of his left leg missing from that quest.
In addition, every year, as was tradition, they would have the great Wolfonne gathering and the children would be told the story of Rexor and several other exiled Wolfonne so they could understand why the tradition of Exile was important. Some of the stories were quite explicit, so that the children would spot the difference if they ever encountered it.
Tourke sighed. There was one other piece of information that he added to all of his thoughts. Rexor was also, by all accounts, a large man, and several older people had mentioned that they thought he was so big because his human and Wolfonne blood fought for control in his body and it grew to accommodate two systems, not just one. Tourke looked down at his own massive torso and wondered again what it might mean.
What if the reason he was so big was because he wasn’t going to Change and his body was doing what Rexor’s had done? What if he hit seventeen - what if already had? - and hadn’t Changed? Why him?
Tourke sat on the edge of the cliff for hours, silent tears streaming once again down his face, until the early morning glow washed away the light of Puul, the yellow moon, and he climbed to his feet to return home before his parents realized he wasn’t there.
He felt calmer, resigned to his fate for now, Gruff’s Edge again giving him the comfort that was increasingly harder to find elsewhere. He would give it some more time before he worried, he promised himself. He snorted bitterly, he knew full well that it would likely only be the next night before his dreams turned to nightmares. But for now, I’m going to be the Tourke my friends and family expect me to be, he vowed.
2 – Town
Tourke made it back to his bedroom and managed to throw off his shirt and hid it under the bed. He then slipped under the covers, pulling the blanket up to his neck just as he heard his mother's footsteps down the hallway. He knew she was headed to his room, so he closed his eyes, slowed his breathing and tried to throw in a faint snore to add to the illusion. Tourke counted silently and just as he got to four, the usual soft knock on his door, and a few moments later, his mother opened the door a crack and said "Tourke, it's time to get up"
He opened his eyes as she looked in and she smiled in response. "Oh, good, you're awake! Remember, you're riding in to the village with your father today. He'll drop you off at the schoolhouse as he goes by, so you'll have a little more time because you don't have to walk in. Still, up soon, my love. I'll have breakfast ready in a bit.
He acknowledged her words with a nod and his customary grunt, and half threw the blanket from his torso and began to sit up. She shook her head, smiling as she turned away, closing the door behind her. He fell back to the pillow and groaned. He was exhausted but he couldn't let either of his parents know he'd been up all night, or the questions about his Change would likely become even more pointed. And that's something I'd like to avoid, he thought.
He groaned again and forced himself to rise. He looked at the pants he was wearing, saw they were covered in muck from his run and fall, and threw them along with the shirt under his pillow, vowing to deal with them in the evening. He pulled out his clean school outfit, quickly wiped at his face with a wet cloth that sat by the basin near his dresser, and after he determined he had cleaned up the best he could, he headed downstairs with a forced air of ease about him, and a smile on his face.
In the kitchen, he found his parents discussing the day ahead. “Terese, I’ll likely be a little late home this evening. We’re meeting to discuss the next set of trading with Rhean. York says that there is an opportunity for us to increase the price on bear pelts and we want to see if that’s a possibility. Would you be able to head to Hunter’s Hall today and pick up some more meat packets?” He grinned and said, “It appears we have a possible Whalenne in our midst and we keep running out.” He looked pointedly at Tourke, the reference being to a semi-aquatic mammalian gargantuan race that lived many leagues to the north of Yarronton. They were giants compared to most races, often reaching twelve foot tall, and all sported wide frames that were prone to fat. In school, they had learned that the Whalenne was a soft-spoken, peaceful race that kept to themselves. They traded precious metals and hard to find woods that only thrived in the far northern colds.
Tourke flushed with embarrassment at the mention of his increased appetite and reference to his size, but also reddened at the thought of him not being Wolfonne, even if the statement had been made in obvious jest. Terese nudged her husband’s shoulder and said, “Shush, Brandon, don’t embarrass our boy. He needs to eat, he’s growing strong. And if he’s going to be a hunter, he’ll need that strength.”
This was a constant discussion with his mother. She had high hopes that Tourke would follow on the family tradition and become one of the hunters that supplied the town’s meats and also gathered the foodstuffs they traded with others. Brandon had retired from the trade when he became a senior councilman, but it had been something that their family had done for as many generations as there was history.
His father motioned him to sit by him, and Tourke slid into the chair. His mother smoothly laid down a platter of eggs, wild goose sausage, and some b’kiid, a meat delicacy that Wolfonne were known for, that had a high concentration of blood that made the flesh almost melt in your mouth. Wolfonne traditionally ate it almost raw, but when they shipped it to the few others that ate it, it was normally cured to make it more palatable.
“Eat up, Tourke, your father needs to leave soon.”
The next few minutes were silent as his father wrote notes down in a journal, and his mother tidied up the kitchen. Tourke ate quickly, and then moved over to help his mother clean the final set of dishes and pans. She tousled his hair in thanks. Brandon leaned back in his chair, grunted in satisfaction at the notes he’d written and looked over at his son. “Let’s be off, Tourke, no point in losing time today.”
It was a statement that many townsfolk said and referred to the Wolfonne culture of living in the moment, and not assuming that the coming days would provide what you needed, and stemmed from when they were a semi-nomadic tribe that lived off the land.
Tourke jumped up on the wagon seat next to his father and glanced back at the house. His mother’s face was peering out of the window and she waved at him. He waved quickly back and then turned to face the trail ahead. As he turned he thought he saw her face shift to concern, but it could have been a trick of the light. His father offered him the reins to guide Hessie, their horse, but Tourke shook his head. Brandon shrugged, and shook them to tell Hessie to get a move on.