The Search of Bandor, by Joy Pixley
Long ago, back when the ancient forest of Layor spanned from sea to sea, Bandor was king of the wolves.
One day, a new enemy invaded the wolves’ territory: humans. The wolves saw our ancestors as pitiful, naked creatures who scared away the deer with their tents and their singing and their fires. The wolves won easily at first, but humans drew blood with their sharp sticks, and more of them came every year.
One summer, the old gods shocked the world, and a great flux shimmered over the land. Only a few creatures were affected. Bandor was one. He mutated into a dire wolf, primordial and savage, larger than any dire wolf had ever been. In his new form, Bandor drove off the intruders.
Then a new tribe arrived: humans who worshiped the battle god Kagnar. These fierce warriors wore the tusks of slain boars, the claws of bears, even the heads of wolves.
Appalan led the pack—a broad-shouldered woman wearing a wolf head and wielding a monstrous two-handed axe. A cleric of Kagnar, Appalan used his divine favor to change into her animal form, becoming larger and faster and stronger.
As fate would have it, Appalan’s animal form was a dire wolf.
When the human pack of Appalan moved too close to the wolf pack of Bandor, he attacked. The humans had never seen a real dire wolf. They assumed this was another human, transformed by the gods, like Appalan, only larger. Shouting her war cry to Kagnar, Appalan changed into her animal form.
The appearance of another dire wolf confused Bandor, but his instinct overrode his curiosity. He and Appalan clashed and wrestled and clawed. Bandor exulted in fighting an opponent anywhere near worthy of him. But the she-wolf’s scent stirred the mighty beast’s blood, and he longed to take her as his mate. He nipped at her, trying to bond. He howled his name to her, but she kept fighting him off.
Appalan sought any advantage against her huge opponent. She feared he was toying with her, waiting for her to tire, waiting to attack at full force. Realizing her transformation spell would soon end, Appalan retreated, leading Bandor away from her companions. Reverting to human form seemed to throw him off her trail, and she escaped.
Appalan’s tribe traveled faster, trying to get past the territory guarded by Bandor and his pack.
Bandor searched for his new mate, but she eluded him. The she-wolf would appear from nowhere during a battle, tease him with her strength and prowess and she-heat, refuse his advances, and disappear. Even her scent vanished, as though she had sprouted wings and flown away.
With every encounter, Bandor felt more drawn to the she-wolf. One night, after fighting her, chasing her, and losing her again, he howled so ferociously he thought he might burst.
Bandor vowed to the old gods that he would cross any forest or river or mountain, never giving up, until he took this she-wolf as his mate. The ancient power of his vow echoed across the valleys like a bell.
The next day, Bandor tracked alone. Moving quietly, he surprised a pack of humans. He killed two before they could react. A woman wearing a wolf head raised her mighty axe in defense, but he was faster. He crushed her beneath his paw and tore her arm off with one bite.
At that moment, Bandor caught the scent of his she-wolf, where the last human lay. He moved his massive head in closer, sniffing. His hot breath washed over the dying woman. She stretched up her remaining arm, stroked the fur on his neck, and whispered his name.
Bandor took no notice of these hairless creatures’ yapping. He did not hear Appalan say his name. The scent of the she-wolf had faded again. This human beneath him smelled only of death.
Confused, he followed the humans running from the clearing. But they did not smell like the she-wolf, and killing them did not make her appear.
The she-wolf had only appeared when Bandor fought the humans. He sought out more humans to attack, hoping to lure her out of hiding. He and his pack roamed across the forest, killing anyone they found.
Bandor searched through snow and through rain, under the hot sun of summer, and padding across blankets of fallen leaves. But he never again caught the scent of his dire wolf mate.
In the fall, the Bear Paw constellation rose to chase the Fish across the sky for another winter. After months of fruitless searching, frustration welled up in Bandor’s heavy heart. He howled with such rage that the whole forest reverberated with his cries. So many birds fled the shaking trees that they blocked out the sun.
The gods responded, cracking open the forest floor beneath him. The earth swallowed the huge wolf, closing over him with barely a sound. The leaves settled back down as though the ground had never been disturbed.
One year later, Bandor clawed his way out of his underground prison. He shook the dirt from his fur and set off to find his she-wolf. Again, he attacked humans, hoping it would draw his mate to him. He searched, never stopping, until the sun set. But he never caught her scent.
He howled his fury at the moon as he was pulled back into the earth.
Every year since then, for one night and one day, Bandor wreaks bloody carnage on anyone he can find. Bandor yearns to fulfill his ancient vow to mate with his chosen she-wolf, unaware that he is doomed to search forever.
Some say Bandor can cross a league with every step—that he can roam anywhere in this land, wherever his nose and ears lead him. So wherever you are on Bandor’s Eve, keep yourself indoors, and guarded, and quiet.
Because once he catches your scent, nobody survives the Search of Bandor.
Joy Pixley is a sociologist who lives in California but visits the fantasy world of Eneana whenever she can. She’s working on her first novel, set in this world. In the meantime, she posts flash fiction and short stories that give glimpses into its cultures, legends, and everyday people on her blog, Tales from Eneana at talesofeneana.wordpress.com/