The Last King of the Werewolves, by Christopher Bleakley

Ironically, it was in Vulpecula, the constellation of the little fox, where the persecuted werewolves had found safety—on a nameless planet orbiting a distant, faint, nameless star.  Whether the location was chosen through chance or by design is both unknown and unimportant.  What mattered were the six moons, one always full, occupying the blue-back sky, and keeping the lycanthropes permanently in their altered, feral state.

They had been driven there from across seventy solar systems in seventy galaxies; misunderstood, feared and hounded by every species they encountered.  On Aanganese, an orb of charred land and oceans of lead, anarchic cyborgs crucified werewolves along the ragged equatorial coastlines, leaving them to bake in the heat of the nearby red giant as it expanded to slowly destroy their world; on the twin planets of Eulergall and Eaxexass—inhabited by the paranoid Y’Chroma, a race of half-life automatons—they were stretched, howling ferociously in the agony, between the gravitational pull of the two worlds until their bodies became thinner than a string of atoms; their fate on Trauhasse had been so chilling that it had been repressed from the collective lycanthropic memory.  Now, on this anonymous world, they had found safety and peace.  They swore they would never allow their terrible history to be repeated; that no living thing would ever come to torment them again.  This anonymous rock, where every surviving lycanthrope had made their lairs, was theirs now, and theirs alone.  They would defend both it and themselves until the end of time.

***

Bósifried was the last King of the Werewolves:  A god-like beast so magnificent that he was entwined with the very fabric of the universe.  From his throne in the firmament of the Beyond, he watched with pity as carnivorous mutant robots massacred his brethren and drove them from ancestral lands; as their suckling young were mutilated by the steam-hissing savages of Alpha Kraucente; as werewolf turned against werewolf in desperation to survive; as they petitioned him, Bósifried, beseeched him through sacrifice and incantation, to protect and save them.  But their maltreatment in the physical world was no more than a reflection of the abuse their godhead also faced in the murky peripheries between the corporeal and incorporeal realms.  Once, not so long ago, Bósifried had enjoyed all the immunity that his status brought him:  The respect and untouchability of being a member of the Grand Cosmic Council.  Yet something had recently stirred changes in others’ perceptions of Bósifried and his kin.  Subtly, at first, with mild propaganda, and failures to consult him on issues affecting his species.  Matters rapidly degenerated:  New forces, new powers, new procedures were starting to take precedence; the old ways were being usurped, and the attempted mass extermination of werewolves was the result.  Bósifried himself had become a target.  He had no choice:  He was forced to run.

From his presence in the magickal substance that holds all the suns and moons and planets together, Bósifried tore himself free and took on his physical form.  As he left the constraints of the cosmic fibre behind him a terrifying roar echoed throughout thirty galaxies; a dozen stars imploded with the force caused by the sudden imbalance in the quantum.  A fissure appeared in the tissue of the universe and a streamlined craft burst out of it at tremendous speed, its cylindrical shape unwavering in its unequivocal course.  At the helm of this luminous yellow and orange striped craft stood Bósifried:  Twelve feet and an inch on his hind legs; coarse fur, blacker than the souls of a thousand black holes, enveloped his muscular body.  His thick, lengthy tail thrashed behind him; his jaws dripped oleaginous saliva; his fiery red eyes glared beneath the simple crown of beaten gold panel, worn proudly on his head, which symbolised his legitimate rank.

Within an instant of Bósifried making his escape four more rips appeared in the universal curtain, setting off four more monstrous bombs of deadening sound—each sending wildly oscillating shockwaves in all directions—as four more craft left the intangible realm of non-spacetime in hot pursuit of their lycanthropic quarry.

In the first craft were the Zlochin, a mechanical paramilitary force, resplendent in their brass and leather uniforms, each wielding an anti-atom rifle.  The second craft contained a delegation of the Judges of the Soudny Den—huge, bodiless wrinkled heads of fifteen eyes, twelve ears and one mouth—responsible for ensuring the legality of capital proceedings throughout all cosmic jurisdictions.  The third contained a back up militia, the six-armed Fialova Brigade—bloodthirsty, amoral and murderous rogues, that in certain light were invisible.  Finally came the Moudrosti, writers of the chronicles and the annals of galaxies known and unknown.

The inhabitants of each craft had a common purpose:  To ensure the demise of Bósifried, and the obliteration of all werewolves from history.

***

Bósifried increased his speed to factor S≥0.05/-1.  Knowing that this journey was imminent he had already programmed his craft to head directly to the planet where all the universe’s werewolves had congregated.  There he knew he would be safe.  More than that, his coming would be final proof of the werewolves’ faith in him—that he had not, and never would, abandon them.

Galaxies shot by in blurs of yellow and pink light as the King of the Werewolves strove on to shake his pursuers and near his final destination.

The first missile caught the rear end of Bósifried’s spacecraft and ripped off a chunk of the upper fuselage.  The Zlochin had been careless in their aim.  Bósifried howled, snarled, howled again, as the impact sent his craft spinning off course—and his precious crown flying from his head—and he struggled to regain control of his machine.  Rapidly, he hit several buttons on the console in front of him, activating the ship’s auto-repair function, then gripped the dirigibility lever to assume manual control.  A few seconds later equilibrium had been restored, and auto-pilot reinstated.  In his long, freshly sharpened claws the King of the Werewolves picked up his crown and restored it to his head.  Again he howled.

The voice that came through on the intership communicating screen was unrecognisable, but its message was clear.

Bósifried, it is folly to continue further with this preposterous charade.  You cannot escape.  We outnumber you four-to-one.  We will soon have you surrounded.  You are a wise beast, you have proven that over your time, but new laws of history are being written, and it has come to pass that you must face due process. Save your dignity, Bósifried, and surrender.  Your brethren will praise the sacrifice.  Alas! they too will fall foul of the redaction in the cosmic anthropology, for their extinction has already been ordained.  Listen to reason, Bósifried, give yourself up and be remembered with the nobility that your kind richly deserves.

 The King of the Werewolves howled again, and spat a torrent of diseased phlegm at the communicating screen.  He was only sorry that he was unable to unleash his wrath on his opponent in person.

Several aeons passed by without Bósifried replying to the demands of his executioners-in-waiting.  He had no intention of capitulating, and increased the speed of his craft toS≥0.06/-1. He checked his galactic longitude and latitude on the positional abacus.  He snarled and pawed the console in delight as he realised he was less than thirty light years from the werewolf colony.

A second missile hit the craft, causing substantially more damage than the first.  The Zlochin had improved their aim.  The ballistic tore straight through the fuselage, leaving a gaping hole from one side to the other, like that left by a CuniCz ™ laser through the soft rock mountains of the Vltiviaan Andes.  By sheer coincidence, neither Bósifried’s flight path nor any of the ship’s navigational equipment was damaged; the missile had failed to hit any vital apparatus.  The only noticeable effect, after the initial explosion and subsequent shockwave, was a slight reduction in the spacecraft’s velocity.  Bósifried moved up two gears toS≥0.08/-1 to compensate for the increase in drag.

He checked the positional abacus again:  Fifteen light years and counting until touchdown.  He surmised that he was in range now of sending a message to the werewolf colony that he was finally coming to visit them, that they need do nothing in preparation except ready themselves to welcome him, but ultimately decided against this course.  He thought it would be better to arrive unannounced; that way he could truly observe their authentic reaction to his presence.

On the perception monitors Bósifried could see the four pursuing spacecraft gaining on him.  He checked his fuel levels and cursed himself for not having set the replenishment gauge, which would have instantly replaced fuel as it was burnt.  Now levels were getting critically low; perhaps only eleven light years’ worth remained, and there was no time now to activate the replenishment gauge.  He performed some quick calculations on the reckoning engine.  With enough propulsion it might just be possible to reach the werewolf colony even when the fuel ran out; the momentum should just be enough to get him within two or three light months, from which distance he could complete his descent.  The risk had to be taken.  The King of the Werewolves increased his speed toS≥0.09/-1.

***

A third missile attack from the Zlochin did nothing to slow Bósifried down.  Another message came across the intership communicating system, the distinct tone of desperation in the voice giving Bósifried a singular reassurance that victory was within his reach.  The missile penetrated his craft similarly to the second, causing much superficial damage but leaving all essential machinery unaffected.  On the positional abacus, Bósifried could now see the exact location of the werewolf colony, and programmed his route accordingly into the navigational console.  To be on the safe side he duplicated the coordinates in the spacecraft’s back up routemaster.  With a final blast of warp speed he left his pursuers behind.

The King of the Werewolves snarled, howled, snarled again.

***

From an anonymous planet in the constellation of Vulpecula, where the universe’s entire population of werewolves had built a safe haven for themselves, a rapidly moving bright white light could be seen in the sky, approaching the planet in a steady arc.  The werewolf elders feared the worst:  That some unrelenting enemy had tracked them down, intent on seeing them out once and for all. Seemingly abandoned by their godhead, the formerly all-powerful Bósifried, the elders had taken it upon themselves to ensure the continued survival of their community.  With the entire body of werewolf knowledge at their disposal they had constructed a devastating defence system on their new planet.  A series of gigantic launchers, each with a warhead containing the explosive power of half a pulsar, had been set up at strategic, regular intervals all across the landscape and seascape.  No matter where an attack came from, the colony would be defended.

For several months the werewolf elders followed the trajectory of the mysterious invader, holding their fire until they were sure of what they faced.  By recording its progression and speed they were able to predict its path with unerring accuracy.  The day of reckoning would soon be upon them.

When the day came, the elders knew their fears had been justified.  A great cylindrical craft was bearing down on them, its luminous yellow and orange livery distinct against the dark background of the sky.  The elders gave the order, and one, another, then a third warhead was launched.  The three missiles hit the invading spacecraft simultaneously, blowing it to smithereens, trails of dust and debris sprawling out in every which way like the most magnificent firework.

The elders did not rejoice.  Their faces displayed a heavy sorrow.  For now that they knew they had to protect themselves, they also knew for certain that that could only mean one thing: Their godhead, Bósifried, was dead.

~~

Christopher Bleakley’s previous credits include spinetinglers.co.uk winner (October 2011), short stories in the Static Movement anthologies Cobwebs and Antiquities and Medieval Nightmares, and a short story to be published in the upcoming Crooked Cat anthology, Fear.

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Posted on December 28, 2012, in Issue 6: Big Bad Wolf in a Big Bad Universe and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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