“Big Bear” detonated in Northern Alaska nearly 200 miles from the Arctic Circle on September 25th, 1988. It was the first recorded deaths of werewolves that did not involve the use of silver. The settlement of Leek Denaa was confirmed destroyed, and mining operations continued with the aid of hazmat suits and iodine pills to stave off radiation poisoning.
Mining ceased on April 8th, 1992 when twelve miners who were reported missing had been discovered after snowfall had melted. Dental records were used to identify the victims after their remains were deemed “humanly unrecognizable.”
— The Wolf Historia, 2014
Chapter 8: The Sons That Shared a Body
Char had hoped to find extra time to rest before meeting with The Warg, but Constance’s pacing proved too distracting. The young servant settled near the window to watch the sun creep up the outer ridge of Leek Denaa. Trisha and Emilie sat in the kitchen stifling their laughter as the sound of a sled approached. Constance raced outside to greet the mushers.
Char found only one musher on the sled. She looked at Constance and found a confused look on her face.
“Mesa is busy,” said Tehmot in a booming voice. The giant wore his bear cloak over a down-filled jacket. His boots were custom made to encompass the girth of his feet.
“Will you send him my sister’s regards?” said Trisha from the doorway. Tehmot nodded as Constance stormed back into the house with her fists clenched. He turned his attention to Char and pointed down at the sled seat in front of him.
“I suppose I should hop in?” said Char.
The giant did not respond. He only watched as Char struggled to nestle herself against the cushions and furs lining the sled. I can see why the girls prefer Mesa, thought Char.
Soon they sped along the snow-filled streets of the village. Dozens rode sleds in and out of the makeshift marketplace that had sprung up in the courtyard where the pairing ceremony had concluded.
“Is Mesa working there today?” said Char.
“No,” said Tehmot, “beyond the ridge.”
“I never thanked you two for carrying me up the mountainside,” said Char.
“Only fat people need to thank us.”
Char felt the back of the sled shake with laughter, and she was tickled that Tehmot found himself so amusing.
The Chief’s mansion came into view as they barreled across the bridge. Leek Denaa was trapped in shades of blue. The bridge lanterns had been swept away by the winds, leaving behind the dreamlike hues of a sunless dawn. Char cradled her unborn as Tehmot led them to the mansion–the sound of a cello playing in the distance.
The sled was turned on its side as the dogs were anchored and tended to by Tehmot. Char watched shapes play in the dark before he lit his lantern.
“Let’s get this over with,” said Char. She placed her hand on the mansion doors. She gasped at the cold fortitude of the structure. It felt as if it was part of the earth, drawing its strength from unknown gods.
Tehmot pounded on the double-doors with his massive fist. The disturbance was enough to cease the cello.
Two giants answered, plowing the snow away with the doors like trucks. They tossed handfuls of salt before them.
Char was led into the foyer where the whale skull chandelier had now been lit. Wax dripped into suspended bowls of porcelain while the smaller sconces adorning the walls burned with casks of whale oil.
The door guards stood at attention as The Warg made his way downstairs from the East Wing. He dressed in his burgundy parka from their arrival, only with furs and leathers bound to him in asymmetrical patches. He looked ready to join the village guards on their patrol.
“And how are we feeling today?” said The Warg.
You took my father away when I needed him most. “Pregnant.”
After all he did for you you’re just going to look at me with that shit-eating grin? “Not as much, maybe we can cut the dosage on the meds?”
The Warg leered at her for a moment. “You may cut it in half, and get some rest” said The Warg as he proceeded to the door.
Where the hell is he going? “What is this!?” said Char. “We’re done!?”
“I’ll check on you again soon.”
“You’re not even going to examine me!?”
“You told me not to touch you remember? Had I known that privilege was mine again I might have made arrangements to take you into my lab.”
“You wasted so much of my–!”
“I made you come here because you want to see your father. To do that, you’ll need permission from the Chief. I saved you a trip, now if you excuse me–.”
“You’re my fucking doctor!” said Char. Her voice echoed throughout the foyer.
The Warg turned to face her. “I’m a lot of people’s fucking doctor,” said The Warg. “You’ll find Chief Reka upstairs in the library. And if that didn’t make your trip worthwhile, then here’s some more valuable information–the guards opened these doors because I ordered them to, not because your servant rapped his freakish fist against it. Let that, and your father’s imprisonment, be lessons to you.”
Char watched as the guards held the doors open for him and the salt crunched under his boots.
When my babies are born, thought Char, you’ll be the first thing they rip apart.
The doors closed behind The Warg as the guards returned to their posts.
Char was led by Tehmot to the library entrance. The colors there dispelled the somber tones outside and welcomed Char into warm thoughts of her childhood. Bookshelves reached up to the rafters attainable only by wooden ladders bolted to railings. The spaces not filled with book stacks were adorned with ribboned bushels of chrysanthemums.
Among the flowers stood Chief Reka in a long white fur robe and a pair of dark-lensed glasses. Next to her laid a bassinet with matching fur lining its base. A thin mesh enveloped the top portion as if to keep bugs away from its contents.
Chief Reka held her hands out in a nervous greeting. “I’m so glad you’re here,” said Chief Reka. “Howard said you liked chrysanthemums–they’re fake, but still pretty, yes?”
“They’re lovely, Chief Reka,” said Char. “You shouldn’t have gone to such trouble.”
“Please call me Simone.” She tilted her head to the side as if looking through Char. “Hello, Tehmot, I wasn’t expecting you.”
The giant shook the floorboards as he lowered to one knee.
“You know that isn’t necessary around me,” said Simone. “Would you be so kind as to watch the door for us?”
Tehmot nodded and closed the door behind him.
Silence persisted as Char examined Simone. She recalled the calluses of the fingers, but the delicacy of her touch. Simone had begged Char for forgiveness within seconds of meeting her, and Char had even considered it.
“How do you like my new glasses?” said Simone. “I’ve been told these would help me appear more ‘inviting.’”
I should make this easy for both of us, thought Char as she took small steps toward Simone. “I was told you could grant me permission to see my father.”
Simone took off the glasses briefly before placing them back. “I should give them a chance instead of just ripping them off my face.”
Perhaps she didn’t hear me. “I would like you to grant me access to my father while he’s imprisoned.”
Simone stepped in front of the bassinet. “My love, please stay where you are just a moment longer.”
Char’s stride quickened. “I am sick of you people wasting my time!”
Char stopped when she heard the sound of a door close behind Simone. The floorboards shook once again as another giant emerged from a faux bookshelf.
“I’m sure you remember Mesa?” said Simone.
“Tehmot told me you were working beyond the ridge,” said Char as she backed away from Simone.
Mesa continued his approach.
“Don’t, Mesa,” said Simone. “She’s just frustrated. Anyone in their right mind would be.”
Mesa returned to Simone and stood with his arms crossed beside the bassinet.
“I trust we can speak freely now,” said Simone to Mesa.
“The perimeter is clear,” said Mesa.
Simone rushed to embrace Char. “I’ll tell you everything,” said Simone, “just as long as you are the only one listening.”
“Is someone spying on you?”
“When you arrived you witnessed the largest pairing ceremony in Lek Denaa history. The man leading it was High Priest Mezic.”
“The one wearing the caribou hide?”
“And the bloodstained antlers. He has convinced many of our people to resort to violence in the wake of perceived Lek extinction. The more extreme members have called for war against non-Lek, even planning an invasion into the mainland.”
“Why didn’t you have him removed from Leek Denaa?”
“Had I known what he would become I would have, but his rhetoric spread quickly and his supporters are numerous. As the sole religious leader of the village, Mezic will serve on Howard’s tribunal.” Simone took Char’s hand and held it to her chest. “I need to hear it from your mouth–do you believe Howard is capable of the atrocities he has been accused?”
Char considered the mental deterioration of her father over the course of the past few years. He was certainly capable of murder and torture, but against children? The thought made her eyes well and Simone’s grip tighten.
“You can talk to me, Char. I’ve known Howard almost as long as you. We’ve seen the same changes, haven’t we?”
“He did what was necessary to keep The Bedlam in check,” said Char, “but killing his own people was rare…or at least, it was.” Char was pulled closer until her forehead met Simone’s.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this together,” said Simone as she brushed the back of Char’s head.
“I need to talk to him and figure out what really happened.”
Simone took Char’s face in her hands. “Neither of us can see Howard. It was difficult enough getting him a private cell. If Mezic’s followers see him getting any more preferential treatment, it could spark riots before the tribunal, maybe even get him killed.”
Char seized Simone’s hands and guided them to her sides. “Then tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
“My sons need to partake in a ritual soon. Mezic will oversee it. He doesn’t know I’m planning to undermine his influence, so we can use this opportunity for you to meet him and understand who we’re dealing with. You might even have a chance to speak with him on Howard’s character.”
“I’ll be ready. What kind of ritual is it?”
“The first in a series of ceremonies to grant one of them the title of Chief after I pass away.”
“Have you decided which son you would like to become chief?”
Simone’s face became sullen. “Would you like to meet them?”
“I would be honored.”
Simone took Char’s hand once more and pulled her to the bassinet. She waved Mesa away, and he left the way he came.
Two boys couldn’t possible fit in such a small…
Char placed her hand against her mouth to prevent screaming. The arms bent like bird feet, and the legs had not developed beyond the knees. The bulbous torso sprouted a single head bearing two faces, each jetting out of the points of a “v” shaped skull.
This isn’t real! thought Char. This won’t happen to my children! It can’t!!
“Their names are Jan and Garas,” said Simone. “As your gasp suggests, choosing one is… impossible.”