From the upcoming novel "Of Claws and Blood" by Pete Tobias.
From Tragedy Comes A Terrible Heroism
The sun shone down brilliantly through the removed top of the Jeep as Anthony traversed the winding mountain roads. His focus wasn't entirely on the road, but enough to keep the leisurely paced vehicle in it's place. The distraction was only partial, as he wasn't entirely invested in the half hearted singing of "Bulletproof" as Five Finger Death Punch roared through the speakers. Anthony's melodic tenor seemed to accompany Ivan Moody's gruff tones almost perfectly, but he was more the type that just sung along on drives and in the shower. Anthony Peterson wasn't searching for fame and fortune, or even expression through artistry. He was a hard working blue-collar type. More at home with an ax in his hand than the spotlight shining brilliantly on his rugged, weathered face. Anthony had been the foreman on a local logging crew for a couple years now, having busted his ass from his time as a greenhorn up to heading his own crew. This was a fact he was most proud of, but he was also conflicted. The idea of destroying the forest had never set well with him, and while it took considerable doing he convinced the owner to expand his business to planting new trees during the off-season. This not only helped the environment, but guaranteed work for generations. The mountains had always resonated strongly with him, so even when he wasn't working he was there. Camping out to partake of all kinds of outdoor sports was a regular thing, and stretched back to his youth. As he stubbed out the remnants of a Marlboro Smooth in his ash tray - something he frequently caught a ribbing for since "only black guys smoke menthols" - he pulled the jeep over and came to a stop.
"What the hell was that?"
A flash of mottled brown the size of a truck had sprinted across the road in a blur of speed twenty yards ahead. Fingers nervously wrapped around the grip of the .357 permanently tucked in the glove box. It had saved his bacon more than once, and only one time with anything more drastic than a warning shot. There was still meat in his freezer from that day, but he found it difficult to eat. Killing wasn't in Anthony's nature. He could do it only out of self preservation. He wasn't a vegetarian, but if he had to do the slaughtering that was an animal likely to be set free. The jeep was stationary for what felt like an eternity. Two of the longest minutes in his life, or probably anyone's for that matter. Finally, his grip was released on the weapon and the jeep crawled into motion. Wide-open hazel eyes scanned the forest on both sides of the vehicle as he drove past the spot where the massive creature - was it a creature? - had entered the treeline. This lack of focus proved costly. Anthony hadn't even noticed the rapidly approaching truck behind him, it's driver's eyes closed as bliss overcame him, euphoria destroying any hope of a reaction as a wave of pleasure wracked his body and he filled the mouth of a lot lizard from the local truck stop with his seed. She was a new one, and very ski--
Just as the man yelled, the initial impact took place. A loud, dull thud followed by the screech of torn metal as the engine compartment collapsed. Bolts sheared as momentum pushed the old truck forward into the back of the jeep, shoving the engine through the firewall to splinter every bone in his legs. The man's lower body was reduced to pulp in a matter of just half a second. The woman's skull erupted in a spray of blood and gray matter as hot steel destroyed flesh and bone as the engine continued through on its path of destruction. The man simply stared in helpless awe at the carnage that he'd become. That his lust had created. His expression never changed as he rapidly bled out through a tangle of shredded flesh and displaced organs.
Anthony's attention was brought back to the here and now by another man's voice just in time for his jeep to be catapulted forward like the graceful bound of a large cat. None of the wheels remained on the ground as the jeep flew forth, the right front fender smashing into a tree to create a ricochet. Anthony's body gave up against the immense strain, going limp as he fell unconscious. The jeep bounced off the tree into a spin, and rolled as it landed, finally coming to rest on it's roll cage about ten feet off the road on the opposite side. His unconscious mind was aware that he was moving, just not how, or where to.
Slowly, eyelids raised to reveal a scene he'd never expected. He was sheltered beneath the roots of a fallen free with a small fire burning just far enough away that he wouldn't accidentally roll into it. The warm wet feeling in both shins slowly made itself known as mental acuity slowly returned, bringing about the urge to sit up. The effort required to sit up was too much, and a pain crashed through his nerves with the force of a hurricane. Anthony was a tough man, but in the face of this pain he screamed. He cared not for who heard, just hoped, prayed that this pain would subside. His neck had made a rather horrible crunch sound as he'd fallen from the shredded seat belt, but he didn't know that. The pain took quite a while to subside and allow him to think of anything else, and when it did, it was suddenly revealed that he was not alone. She was very quiet, weeping in the darkness just outside the light of the fire. Anthony was scared and helpless. He couldn't move, and knew both of his legs were damaged. He feared his neck was broken. The voice that came when he opened his mouth was barely a croak.
The weeping was instantly a fit of sobbing, wails of remorse howled toward the waxing half moon. Accompanying the lament was footsteps, growing closer. Heavy footfalls even in the soft dirt. The woman revealed by the dim flicker of the fire was beautiful despite her large physical stature. She was nearly six feet tall, and probably close to a solid two hundred and fifty pounds. While her stature was abnormal, it was certainly impressive. Each muscle was sculpted as if she'd been carved from granite. Her nudity, the streaks of dirt her tears created, these were lost on a reeling mind. Anthony knew one thing. This woman would take care of him while he healed. The roar of pain in his right shin was already dimming to a dull throb, feeling as though his flesh had been penetrated by teeth. Lots of large teeth, meant for tearing meat.
"I'm sorry.. I had no choice. You'd die if I didn't!"
She fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. Her torso shaking violently with each gasp of air that fueled her endless expression of sorrow. Anthony's questions fell on deaf ears no matter how loudly he asked, answered only with further apologies. Finally, the woman brought herself under control. The sobbing ceased, replaced with mild sniffles. Rather than standing, she crawled the remaining distance bewteen them and laid beside Anthony.
"My name was Desirae. Now I'm known as Rock Dancer of the Bloodfang Tribe. You're very wounded. I've splinted and bandaged your broken leg, and your neck will be sore for days. Your right leg.. I'm very sad to have altered your life so much. Before I explain, you should drink."
The woman tugged on a thin cord, bringing about a leather pouch from behind her. The knot was untied, and a thin tube was placed to his lips. Anthony use this as a straw instinctively though if he knew he was drinking from the bladder of a fallen foe through their urethra, this may have never happened. Desirae raised the pouch to allow the fresh spring water to flow toward Anthony's mouth and he drank hungrily until he gasped, his handled gently cradled in her free hand. She smiled down upon him as the tube was taken from his mouth.
"As I promised, I'll explain what's going to happen and when. Then you'll be introduced to the Tribe. My kind is known as Stone Sentinels. We guard the mountains, protect our sacred land from poachers. We aid anyone within our lands if it fits with our ideals. I've seen you with your crew, and though you destroy, you also rebuild. Otherwise, you'd be dying in your jeep from blood loss."
She tapped very gently on the broken leg, bringing the wet feeling of spilled blood to the forefront in his mind.
"My tribe lives as bears. Honestly, we may have a use for you in the urban world. If the Elders will it, you will comply. Otherwise, you'll be killed, and my efforts will have been in vain. Please don't let this happen."
Desirae - Rock Dancer, continued with her explanation of what was to happen, and how Anthony's wounds would be healed. He fought so hard to assimilate all this knowledge, and in the end, he retained only one thing. His life would change in about a week. A week he was doomed to spend at Rock Dancer's mercy in the woods. Time passed, Anthony at Rock Dancer's mercy, though she was fiercely protective and very nurturing. She told him what to expect, and the nightmares she described to him happened nightly with increasing detail and brutality. Finally, it came. The night he was promised that everything would change.
The night of the full moon.