Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)
At the end of Part 74, Allin changed back to his human form to hide from Pogue, but perhaps a werewolf bar was not the best hiding place.
The Only City Left: Part 75
The room was lit only by the werewolves’ coils, and it took my once-again-human eyes a few seconds to adjust to the mix of bright lights and dark shadows. When I did, I saw that I had stepped into some sort of bar and that all of the tables were packed with werewolves at their leisure. Behind the bar, a werewolf was wiping the counter down.
My arrival brought them all to a halt, their snouts swiveling in my direction.
“Well what do we have here?”
“Someone order fresh meat?”
I heard raucous laughter fill the room, followed by the sound of chairs scraping as a group of them got up from their seats.
Before I could flee, several of the wolves latched on to me and dragged me into the center of the room. Back in my regular body, I had no chance of avoiding their grasp, much less escaping. One hand gripped my jaw and turned my face left and right.
“Not as pretty as the last one they sent.”
I could feel gusts of hot breath at the base of my neck as someone behind me sniffed.
“Who cares if he’s pretty? He smells good and I’m hungry.”
They tugged me this way and that, wolves pulling at their prey, and I could barely catch my breath to tell them to stop, I was in such a panic. After all I had been through to get here, I was about to be pulled apart by a pack of rabid werewolves because I had made a wrong turn. I still had so much left to do, so many people who were counting on me. It shouldn’t have ended this way.
And it didn’t.
“All right, all right, you’ve had your fun,” said the werewolf behind the bar. “Now let him go. That’s the new errand boy I requested, so if you want to keep your liquor flowing, you’ll not tear him apart.”
Abruptly, they released me and I flew forward, windmilling my arms for balance. I came up against the bar and caught myself before I smacked into it head-first. Behind me, I heard the werewolves retake their seats with mumbled complaints and disappointed comments. As they resumed their normal chatter, I looked up to see who it was who had saved me.
“Long time, no see, kid. How’s life been treating you since Glin’s Rising?”
It was him. The only wolf who had survived the battle inside the department store. The wolf who killed my father.
I gripped the edge of the bar, ready to launch over it and tear his throat out, heedless of being a mere human at the moment. My father’s murderer, alive and serving drinks? There was no justice left in the world, so I would have to provide it myself.
These thoughts must have been plain on my face, because he tut-tutted me and said, “You wouldn’t want to cause a scene now, would you? After I just saved your life and all? Have a seat.”
I tamped down the rage burning inside of me, pulled up a stool, and slid onto it. He was right, he had saved me. And I would repay him, too, for everything. In the meantime, I had to keep my anger under control and play it cool until I could escape.
“Serving drinks?” I asked, my voice low and devoid of any emotion. “I would have thought you’d have a slave to do that for you.”
“Funny thing about that,” he said, and then moved further down the bar with an awkward gait, his right arm sliding along the counter. “Normally, you’d be right.”
He grabbed a mostly empty glass with his left hand, poured its remnants onto the floor behind the bar, and then slid it toward me before shuffling back my way. On the return trip, he let his right arm hang limp at his side, and he gripped the counter with his left hand. I realized that his right arm was useless, still injured from that battle in Glin’s. And from the way he walked, his left leg was similarly useless. I thought of Matthias and his speech about werewolf healing. In this case, it obviously hadn’t worked.
“Yes, I’m crippled,” he said. He pulled a bottle of some opaque brown liquid from underneath the bar and sloshed some into the empty glass before me. “Drink up.”
I was about to protest that I didn’t want any, but the look on his face told me I had no choice. If he asked me to spin on my head right now, I had better try my best to do it; he held my fate in his one good hand. The liquid sizzled down my throat and hit my stomach like a punch. My cheeks flushed and I blinked tears from my eyes.
“Good stuff, that,” he said. He grabbed the glass and finished the rest of it in one gulp before slamming it back onto the bar. “Now we’ve shared a drink. Old friends, us. Let’s catch up.”
Unlike me, he didn’t bother to hide the bitterness in his voice.
“So after I killed your dad”—I dug my fingernails into the bar but kept staring straight into his eyes as he growled his story—“I made my way back to the Garden. Grinty was the leader of our little troop, but since he and all the others were dead, it was up to me to tell Doyle what happened.”
He poured another glassful and nudged me to repeat the ritual. The drink burned less this time and I could feel it fuzzing the contours of my brain. He finished the rest and slammed it down again. If it was affecting him at all, I couldn’t tell.
“Orders were to bring you and your dad in alive and, of course, never lose a coil. For letting you keep your dad’s coil, Doyle made sure this never healed.” He picked up his limp right arm in his left hand and let it fall back to his side. “And for your dad dying, he mangled my leg, too. But because I had let you live, he spared my life and gave me this job serving my ‘betters.’ I guess I got you to thank for that.”
“You’re not welcome.”
His composure broke, helped along by the alcohol perhaps. He grabbed my neck in his good hand and pulled me up and across the bar so that we were nose to snout.
“I hold your life in my hand, you little snot. You might want to be a little more thankful. But now that you’re here, I’m thinking maybe Doyle might reward the wolf that brings you in. And that would be thanks enough.”
* * *
7/21/13 News: Another scene that will likely be changed in the novel, although there are some core elements that will remain.
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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.