Twilight of the Wolves

Twilight of the Wolves by Edward J. Rathke

Book: Twilight of the Wolves by Edward J. Rathke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edward J. Rathke
    She leaned back, You’re a shrewd fellow. Shrewd.
    I do not know shrewd. What do you know of weapons?
    Like rifles and swords and shit like that?
    Ng, rifles, the ones that shoot metal balls.
    I, um, I’ve seen them. I don’t know. I don’t understand. What do you want to know about them?
    The wolf was killed by rifles. She could not recover from their wounds. The metal balls poisoned her. They burrowed deep inside her and killed her.
    Mostly the army uses rifles. All the armies do and have for a long time. You really are from nowhere, you know that.
    I am not a beast.
    She laughed flatly, I didn’t say that. No.
    What is the army?
    People who fight. Soldiers. You’ve probably seen them around. They carry swords and rifles and wear metal helmets and armor. They fight other nations. There are a lot of them now and more are coming every day. The war’s heading north. No longer a distant Death toll, but something present, happening through the forest.
    The world is a forest.
    Not anymore. Or it won’t be for long.
    There was a man who hunted wolves. He called them gods and he wanted us to see him kill a god. He did.
    Aye, many call the wolves the old gods, like dragons and Angels.
    Who are the new gods?
    Power is the only god. Who were your gods?
    We have no gods.
    What did you believe in?
    We believed in unity. In each other. There was only us. I think that is why we did not have I and you or he and she. There was only us and if one was not us that one was them. Them was a rude word. A curse, you would say. That is what they called me when I was exiled. They drove me out and I ran into the woods.I am small but I am fast. I am faster now.
    You’re a demon.
    Please, do not say that.
    Auntie! Let’s have another drink and see where the night takes us, aye?
    Ng. Aye.
    The boy brought two mugs and took the empties away.
    Here’s to the future, she said and raised her glass.
    Sao did the same and they drank.
    He walked west following the road to the capital. A cart of wares rolled past him and he hitched a ride for an iron coin. Jostled with the cargo, he did not speak to the driver but watched the trees drift by, in and out of sleep. The reds and oranges and yellows and indigos of autumn painted his way to Valencia during the days. He shared food and fire with the driver at night and watched the moons shift in the sky, their colors fierce, their sizes enlarged.
    He woke beneath the gate to the sound of many voices, of many hooves and stared at the arc so far above his head, his brow furrowed, blinking the vision away to clear it, then sitting up and looking back at the enormous gate, twenty meters high and five wide. Thick and pale and stone, Valencia surrounded by a great wall. Hopping off the cart, he tossed the driver another iron coin and wandered after the crowd of newly arrived.
    A deep bass sounded then horns and then more drums beating in a solid rhythm. Sao turned towards the sound, far away, near the center of the city a gate opened and men emptied. The people all round cheered and shouted. The men marched in straight lines with rifles on their backs, swords on their hips, the faces of demons on their helmets, long fangs, heavy brows, thick flat noses. All in red and black, all the same, all in line, followed by men on horses. The cheers followed the long line of menthrough the city gate and erupted with new fervor when the dirigible took to the air, all red and black, a beautiful war-machine.
    What is that, Sao nudged a man beside him.
    An airship. The pride of Vulpe!
    What does it do?
    It flies!
    Sao turned from the march and pushed his way through the crowd, deeper into the city, away from the drumbeat, away from the demonic machinations, away away away.
    The market was alive and he spent day after day walking through. Troupes performed on makeshift stages and he returned day after day to watch. They spoke too fast in strange wordplay but he watched over and over. The troupes were all women, some

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