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The Hermit and the Wendigo King

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The ravenstag was caught in a bear trap made of iron. It was an immense beast with dark fur mingled with midnight feathers and antlers stained with old blood. Its right front leg was trapped between brutal metal teeth, and though it struggled to free itself, its supernatural nature made it weak in the presence and sharp grip of iron.

The hermit of the wild wood stood still from where he was hidden behind the foliage, his pack more than a good enough distraction from being noticed by the creature. Barking and snapping at air, the dogs circled the ravenstag, but were smart enough not to approach it and risk being gored by its horns.

Having lived in the woods by himself for most of his life, Will Graham was very familiar with all the strange beings who resided here as well, but it was not everyday one stumbled upon a creature such as this. If the ravenstag had a more human form…and Will was sure that it did from the great press of power coming off of it…it was trapped behind fur, hooves, and horn until it managed to escape the iron’s influence upon it.

A smart man would walk away and let the creature fend for itself. The Fae and the Others were not known for their kindness or understanding. Their King was proof enough of that.

The wild wood Will chose to live in lay dark and deep around a small village. A tribute was demanded from the people who lived there by the King of the wood for intruding upon his lands. Those who had seen him and lived to talk about it described the King as a great horned god or wendigo who walked the night in a shadowed form of inky skin and glinting sharpness from wicked claw and sharp horn.

As for the tributes themselves, there never seemed to be an exact method for their choosing, the wendigo King taking only a few people far between spaces of time. A mark in blood would be left over upon the chosen’s door, their name spelled out in old writing that should have been forgotten with time but was relearned out of grim necessity. Those taken would be found later on in nearby field or dale, splayed out in some gruesome manner with most of their organs removed.

Not many would deem Will wise or even sane for that matter, the hermit snorting at the thought as he toyed with the idea of approaching the ravenstag. Most in the village considered him mad and would happily see him banished or burned at the stake. The rest, namely Lord Jack Crawford and Lady Alana Bloom, considered him too valuable to do either course of action. Will’s unique brand of madness had proven to be very useful in the past, the empath determining innocence in cases of judgment, and catching hidden evils most refused to see on their own.

A hermit left to his own devices most of the time and having only his dogs to keep him company, Will kept the peace between himself and the village by only entering its gates when he was invited(i.e. ordered by Lord Crawford) to do so, or when his talents were desperately sought out by one of its citizens. For the most part, the arrangement worked out fine for Will. The burden of his gift made socializing with other ‘normal’ people difficult for the sensitive empath who found he much preferred the company of nature and animals.

Even as he began to turn away, Will couldn’t resist taking one last look at the magnificent ravenstag. What he read off of the beast’s features brought Will up short and reconsider everything. Whatever this creature was, there was a sharp intelligence, far above that of any animal. It was also frightened, but it was the kind of fear from one who did not experience such an emotion often. Fear was a subject that Will knew all too intimately well, his mind in waking and slumber filled with it on a near constant basis from the horrors he was made to look at. Images that his own mind twisted in on itself and replayed for him in different shades of depravity and darkness.

There was anger there as well in creature, rage, a deep foreboding even, and that was to be expected, but the ravenstag’s fear was something unique to it. It didn’t fit in its nature somehow, Will could tell that much. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but when did he ever for certain? The fear softened the creature’s menace, making it fragile in a way, and more bound in others. Enough so that Will revealed himself to it, stepping out of his camouflage‘s safety.

“Hello there.” Will said gently, catching the creature’s attention. The ravenstag lowered its head, threatening to run the man through if he dared come near it, its good leg scraping the ground as if readying itself to charge. Will lift his hands to show the creature his open palms, the appendages held out wide and empty of any weapon. A sharp whistling to his pack called off the dogs, Will sending them away for now until it was only the ravenstag and himself in the little clearing. The creature remained as it was, tense and ready to attack, its sides heaving like a blacksmith‘s billows with every breath filled with pain and trepidation..

“I know you’re upset and I know you’re scared, but if you let me, I can help you out of that.” Will nodded to the metal trap, but made no move toward the ravenstag. His words got a reaction though, the creature lifting its head as it grew unnaturally still to regard the man with dark, fathomless eyes. “If you could refrain from maiming, cursing, or killing me while I do that, I would be very grateful.”

The ravenstag seemed to consider the offer, the creature tilting its head as it studied Will and dissected his sincerity. When it grew still again, Will knew his offer had been accepted. Approaching the ravenstag cautiously, Will knelt down beside the trap to examine the contraption.

“It will be simple enough to remove this. You’ll only need to lift your leg out when I pry it apart. Getting it open will be the real problem.” Will told the creature, confident that he was being understood. There was too much intelligence in that gaze for him not to be. “Just so you know, this is not one of mine. I prefer to fish or eat whatever the dogs bring back for me.”

The trap was simply enough, more meant for bears than ravenstags. It was probably due to the creature’s fae nature that its leg wasn’t broken, only deeply gouged as it was held in place by the trap’s metal teeth. Sighing, Will cursed the village’s blacksmith Francis Dolarhyde in his head. The trap’s metalwork had the man’s signature style of cruelty all over it, the teeth longer and more jagged than they needed to be and the trap having a double spring to add extra pressure. This savage thing was meant to severe an animal’s leg, not keep it in place for later collection. It existed simply because it could, Will already reading that much in its design, that Dolarhyde had no intention about coming here to reclaim any prize. He had simply made it and inflicted it upon the forest because he could.

Swallowing back disgust and a growing sour taste in his mouth, Will focused on opening the trap, prying the bloody mouth of it apart. It was not an easy task. The trap’s mechanisms were rusted over and Will was nowhere as strong as the muscular blacksmith, but then few men were. It was a task Will had to put his weight into, the hermit breaking out into a light sweat as he worked the metal loose while trying not to inflict further injury or pain upon the beast.

The ravenstag made a low keening sound as the metal was removed from its body, the process slower than either man or beast would have liked. With one last push of strength, Will spread the trap’s jaws wide enough for the ravenstag to pull its leg out, the creature skittering back as it did so with a wail of hurt saturated sound. Letting go, Will fell back himself as the trap snapped shut again with a sharp nasty sound.

Laughing in relief and triumph, Will kicked at the useless lump of metal, wondering if he should even bother bringing it back to the village. In his opinion, Dolarhyde hardly deserved the warning. It would serve the man right to find out what he had caught out here, what Will had freed to do what it will. The vision of Dolarhyde mounted on pitch black antlers filled Will’s mind, the blacksmith arranged so that he would bleed out slowly from the multiple wounds so that he lost life in inches and minutes. It was more beautiful than it had any right to be.

Shaking his head clear of such dark thoughts, Will looked up to find the ravenstag limping away from him. It was doing a poor job of it, the creature unable to put any sort of pressure on its wounded leg. It all but nearly fell over from its efforts.

“Don’t go.” Will said as he got up off of the ground to follow the nightmare stag, surprising himself by doing either action. Apparently, it surprised the ravenstag as well, the creature stopping with a deep groan to regard Will once again.

“I could help you. I have salve.” Will offered, feeling silly about doing so. Human medicine was a laughable concept to beings of Fae and Other who could heal with a touch or on mere whim. The fact that the ravenstag was still struggling with its wounds just proved how effective iron was against its kind.

Obviously the ravenstag thought as much about Will’s offer, the creature snorting at Will in what sounded like amusement despite all its suffering. It began the process of stalking off once again to find itself falling to its knees. Anger rolled off of its fur in near visible waves, making the ravenstag an even greater danger that before. Will saw this but still approached it as the beast glowered at him for being witness to its moment of weakness. The empath could see murderous intent begin to form in the creature’s mind as he drew closer to it.

“Please?” Will asked the ravenstag softly, offering the creature his palms and keeping his movements slow. The creature struggled to rise one last time before giving up. Turning its head to look at Will straight on, the empath found himself staring into liquid eyes that could have been pools reflecting back star studded night.

With great dignity, the ravenstag nodded its head as it settled to a more comfortable position on its side while still sitting up a bit as if to oversee the proceedings. The beast looked up expectantly at Will, daring him to approach. Swallowing hard enough to make his dry throat click, Will took a deep breath to try and calm himself. He could read so much from off the creature, more so than from a dog or any other animal, but it was not overwhelming like it would have been from a fellow human. Will found that there was disbelief about his offer, the ever present promise of violence and painful death if he failed, but even more so above all else was a sense of curiosity, in such a great amount it outweighed all the rest. .

Kneeling down closer to the ravenstag than he really deemed safe, Will examined the wounded leg, the deep gouges left behind in its leg by the cruel trap. He doubted that the ravenstag would put up with stitches so wrapping up the leg was his best bet.

“You’re lucky. If this had been winter, all my gear would be back at my little house and me along with it.” Will told the ravenstag as he took out a small clay jar full of ointment and a wrapped bundle of boiled linens. He felt the need to fill the silence even if he was the only one able to talk. Will knew that the creature was listening to him, though with an understanding far beyond that of any dog or other animal. The look of question from the ravenstag was proof enough of that, and more than enough to make Will chuckle a bit as he sorted through his inventory. “I live out in the woods and keep moving about when the weather is good. Harder for them to find me that way.”

“I have to touch your leg. Is that alright?” Will asked, watching the ravenstag closely for any sort of answer. It was clear enough, the creature dipping its head in silent permission. Taking hold of the leg gently but firmly, Will cleaned off the blood and other ick, pouring out spring water over it from his canteen. The ravenstag rumbled in discontent but made no other move to stop his effort so Will kept on going until all the debris and caked on matter was gone, leaving behind only fresh blood to ooze.

“I sleep…” Will picked up right where he had left off, hoping that his voice would be a distraction or a source of comfort while he worked, the empath keeping his tone soft and even. “…when I can manage it, out under the stars or beneath roots of trees when it rains. I only dare stay at my little house in the winter when I know the villagers are kept in by the cold as well.”

Happy that the wounds were clean enough now, Will began to rub the herbaceous paste into the lacerations, keeping his touch as gentle as possible. It was a concoction of his own making, one he used often enough for the injuries he incurred while fishing, or dealing with other people. Though he had Lord Crawford’s and Lady Blooms protection, that didn’t stop some of the villagers from treating him poorly. Most ignored him. The few who did not gave merit for the paste’s existence. Will’s body was littered with mementos of their displeasure, scars from stoning, lashes, and even stabbing. If it were not for Alana’s friendship, Will would have left the village’s presence a long time ago. That and Lord Crawford’s threats to hunt him down if he attempted to do so. Capture and confinement would be his reward if he tried to run.

“I’m not sociable. I don’t do well with other people. Never have.” Will told the ravenstag who seemed to be listening intently to the empath. “I have this….gift. Well, others call it a gift, but they don’t have to live with it. I see too much with it, too much of everything. That doesn’t win me any favor. People don’t like it when you know they’re lying.”

Unwinding the bundle of linen, Will set out the strips he needed to bind the wound, carefully wrapping the material around the ravenstag’s leg. All the while, he kept on talking, finding it easy to do so in the creature’s presence.

“Animals don’t care though. Probably why I have more dogs than friends.” Will muttered, the sounds of it soft and sad in nature, the empath tying off the linen. His work complete, Will rose to his feet slowly, keeping his movements easy to read as he gestured for the ravenstag to rise. “I’m all done if you want to give that leg a try now.”

Will found his words to be unnecessary though, the creature already taking to its hooves to tower over him. “You should try to keep the bandage on….” Will’s nervously spoken words trailed off as the ravenstag lowered its head. A brief moment of panic within Will occurred, the empath envisioning being speared in the gut by sharp antlers. A moist nose snuffling through his dark curls relieved Will of this notion, the ravenstag scenting his hair before trailing downward to his ears and the sensitive skin of Will’s neck, making the man chuckle outward as the side of his face was bumped by a great snout and a moist tongue lapped at his tongue, tickling his skin.

Knocked off balance a bit, Will steadied himself by grabbing hold of the ravenstag’s head, his hands cupping the sides of it. The fur beneath his fingers was like strange warm velvet, fur mingled seamlessly with feather to give it a soft, almost unearthly texture. Both beings froze under the realization of what had just occurred, the intimacy of it.

“I’m sorry…” Will said quickly, beginning to pull away to have a huge head pressed closer to him in open invitation. Smiling in what felt like the first time in forever, Will stroked plush fur in shades of night and spilled ink, sinking his fingers into soft depths of it, making the creature sigh.

Being this close to the ravenstag, Will could smell the scents of a sun warmed pelt, the kind of musk deer carried about them, but also the more metallic scents of blood, new and old, that didn’t seem to be coming from the wound on its legs. The odors of petrichor and ozone reminded Will that he was petting something otherworldly, a being that would more than likely run him through when all was said and done. Will supposed it wouldn’t be a terrible way to die. At least then his death would have company that he wanted in a place he found comforting, and not surrounded by the faces of a jeering mob or atop a lighted woodpile.

“Thank you.” Will said to the ravenstag softly as he finally withdrew. He couldn’t keep the creature here forever, and all moments ended in their own time. Fish still had to be caught if he wanted any dinner for himself or the dogs. Despite all that, Will couldn’t resist the urge to press a quick kiss to the end of the ravenstag’s pitch black nose, making the creature stare wide eyed at the empath like he had just struck it. Will could tell the ravenstag wasn’t insulted by the gesture though. It was surprised more than anything by the gesture as beast stared openly at Will who smiled back helplessly at it.

“You’re beautiful.” Will explained the best he could. He was so grateful that he had been able to help a creature such as it. “I’m glad we met though I wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

The ravenstag dipped its head in what seemed to be agreement, the creature regally raising its head and crown of antlers to its full height as if to show itself off better. Even though the creature limped, it strode away with grace and dignity from the clearing. Already feeling bereft of its company, Will stood his ground and watched it go, the ravenstag slipping into shadow to disappear like it had never been, leaving the man to wonder about the encounter. Left on his own, Will gathered up his supplies, packing them away neatly again before calling his pack back to him.

As Will made his way to the river he liked to fish at with all his dogs in tow, the man was watched by hidden dark eyes that transformed into maroon and something far more human in form.

oOo
TBC

Chapter Text

The next time they met, it was the ravenstag who found Will and the empath the one injured. Will sat huddled against a grouping of rocks with his back to the stone, holding his aching head as blood dripped freely from a laceration on his forehead. A stone had struck him there, thrown by one of the villagers. They were angry at him for not catching the thing or man who was stealing their daughters out of their beds, and leaving nothing behind to find them by or hint to their fate.

Better late than never Will reasoned, Lord Crawford showing up before things got bad with his men, Price and Zeller, arriving in time to disperse the crowd, and allowing Will to escape into the woods. Whether he wanted to or not, Will knew he would have to return soon enough. Despite Lady Bloom’s objections in the matter, Jack would just come looking for him otherwise. Until then though, Will hid and tried not to think about missing girls, or the blood that coated his face and pooled in his hands. He knew he should see to the wound, but lacked the energy to care for himself. It was just one more upset of the flesh among many to attend to. It would eventually scar ugly and remind him why he preferred the company of animals to that of men.

Unexpected company went unnoticed until a soft tongue pressed itself to Will’s forehead, moist administrations cleaning the wound. The sudden sting of the greeting caused Will to jump in surprise, his shoulder blades and elbows hitting rock hard. With a weary mind, Will took note that he was basically trapped between the stone and the ravenstag that now loomed over him. He was effectively a dead man if the creature desired taking his life. Luckily, all the ravenstag seemed to want to do was attend to his wound, the creature unbothered by his startled reaction.

Not having the strength to try and escape or even push the creature away from him, Will let it as his face was cleaned thoroughly and then his hands, the empath watching the ravenstag through half lidded eyes as a broad tongue lapped up his blood from offered palms. When the creature was satisfied, it stared down at Will, looking as if it expected something from him.

“Hello. I didn’t expect to see you again.” Will told it honestly, smiling crooked up at it, not really knowing what else to say. “How’s the leg?”

The ravenstag presented the once injured appendage for Will’s viewing, the empath nodding his approval at the healed flesh. There was a scar from where the iron had bit into the ravenstag’s flesh, but it was covered in downy fur now and one would have to know where to look to find the mildly raised skin.

“Oh good. I was worried about you.” Will smiled. The ravenstag huffed hot air at him in response, its hoof striking the ground impatiently. The gesture made Will look the creature over to find anger radiating off of its form, none of which was being directed at him, Will was thankful to note. There was a curiosity there as well, regarding Will, or more accurately his wounds. In revelation, Will raised his hand, touching his forehead to find the cut already healed over and becoming smaller with every passing second. At the rate it was going, there wouldn’t be a trace of it left.

“Thank you.” Will felt like crying, biting his bottom lip to keep from doing just that. It was so rare anything in life was kind to him. Standing up on shaky legs to distract himself, Will reached for the ravenstag and the creature let him so that the empath could rest his forehead against its own horned head. “Thank you.” he whispered again into dark fur, his hands following the curve of lower jaw as his fingers dug into a feathered pelt. This beast of nightmares felt more like an anchor to Will than anything else at the moment, something he desperately needed. The ravenstag rumbled against him, the sound deep enough for Will to feel it through his body.

Trying not to shake Will off, the ravenstag moved Will gently with it as the creature knelt down to seat itself upon the forest’s floor, leaning against the rock face. It let Will to sit with it, cradling the human as the ravenstag rested its great head in Will’s lap.

“There is a man in the village. He is stealing girls from their homes while everyone sleeps. The girls disappear without a trace and nobody knows what happens to them.” Will rambled, his words coming out quick and harsh. “I’ve been given the task to find them and find their kidnapper.”

The ravenstag grew still over and around Will, listening to him with everything that it was. Will couldn’t have stopped even if he wanted to, not now anyway. It was like something was broken inside of him, and was pouring out to fill his chest full of hurt and his mind loathing. “They keep thinking…hoping that these girls are alive, but I know better. I know that they’re dead. He’s doing something horrible to them. I know he is.”

Hunching over so that he could rub his face against velvet that had only been worn by one, Will let the truths of his mind bleed out into the midnight pelt. “I see him. I do, at least parts of him. I feel him, feel like I am him in shared moments. Like we are the same person even while we’re doing different things at different times in the day. I know he loves these girls he’s taking because all of them are meant to be this one girl, the one he is saving from himself.”

The ravenstag raised its head to look keenly at Will, letting the empath know it knew he was holding back. Will rested against the solid body of the beast, warmed by its strange feathered fur, losing himself to the softness of it. A warm flick of tongue marking his cheek reminded Will that he had been telling a story of sorts and that his audience wanted to hear the rest of it.

“They got angry with me because they thought I was hiding something from them. For once they were right.” Will solemnly informed the ravenstag, the creature nodding. “He’s eating them. That’s what I couldn’t tell them. That’s why they can’t find them. There are no bodies to find. No bodies to bury.”

Exhausted, Will left off petting the ravenstag to curl up in its side, hiding his face in its fur. He didn’t know where his dogs were. Whenever Will went into the village, he sent the dogs out into the woods to hide. He couldn’t bear the idea of someone hurting his pack out of malice. Will would rather take the time to hunt down his dogs rather than find them injured or dead because of him.

It felt safe here, in this place with this strange creature, though it really shouldn’t. Creature of Other like the ravenstag didn’t normally associate with men, and when they did, the outcome was almost always bloody. By all past accounts and known experiences with such creatures, Will knew he should be dead many times over, not being cared for and coddled.

“I couldn’t tell them that though. The truth is sometimes so much worse than a lie. One of the remaining girls, Cassie something or other, decided I wasn’t being forthcoming enough. She was angry that I couldn’t find her friends, afraid that she might share their fate.” Will muttered, pressing his ear to a furred side to hear the song of the creature’s breathing and heartbeat. “Threw a stone at my head. The others followed suit. I ran and then you found me.”

Grunting and huffing more hot air that ruffled Will’s dark curls, the ravenstag scented the empath, occasionally licking a patch of desired skin here and there. Cheeks, tip of nose, and forehead were all moistened in passing, a wet nose skirting through locks of Will’s dark hair and over the shell of his ears. The ravenstag made a disgusted sort of sound as it let out a snort on Will’s neck, the empath chuckling from the reaction.

“I’m sorry. It is a bit strong, isn’t it?” Will laughed as the ravenstag began to lick his neck clean of the offending odor. Alana’s choice of cologne for him was obviously not appreciated. “I keep getting it for Winter Solstice.”

After the ravenstag was satisfied with its efforts, it started to rub its forehead and sides of its face against Will over his head and shoulders, the creature staying mindful of its horns.

“Marking me for yourself?” Will reasoned out, biting his inner cheek to keep from laughing lest he offend his new friend. “I appreciate the thought but human don’t pick up on things like that. I’m afraid it’s all for nothing.”

The ravenstag stopped what it was doing to look down its snout at Will, letting him know without words how very wrong he was, before resuming. The renewed efforts made Will laugh out loud, the empath finally having to wrap his arms around the nightmare stag’s head to make it stop.

“At least there is something in this world that likes me other than the dogs.” Will mused, pressing the side of his face to the ravenstag’s jaw to feel the plush velvet of its fur against his skin. Feeling loved despite its odd source, Will made himself release the stag and stand up. The creature looked to him for an explanation, discontent about his leaving apparent on its regal features.

“I have to go back. I don’t want to but if I don’t, Jack will send out his men to find me. Believe me when I say that would be a very bad thing, You probably wouldn’t see me for a very long time if that were to happen. I have found it is in my best interests to just acquiesce to Lord Crawford’s demands.” Will told the ravenstag, reaching out to gently pet its snout, trialing his fingers upward to its crown of antlers. The bone that grew there was black, the antler’s razor points covered in a fine patina of other creature’s blood.

Will realized he should have felt some sort of fear about that but only could assemble ashes of the emotion in the ravenstag’s presence. His mind was so strangely at peace when he was with the creature. Letting his touch linger as long as possible, Will withdrew, leaving the ravenstag behind as the hermit took to the woods once again.

Or he would have. Will found his path blocked by the nightmare stag, the creature moving terrifyingly fast. It did not do so in a threatening manner though or seem to wish him harm. The ravenstag merely stood in his path as if waiting for something. If Will had to put an emotion to it, he would have to say it was quite miffed with him. It took the ravenstag leaning in to swipe his lips with a broad tongue for the empath to get what the creature wanted from him.

“I’m sorry. That was rather rude of me. Leaving before giving you your kiss.” Will chuckled, reaching up to cup the ravenstag’s face as he pulled it down to his level, pressing kisses to its snout. He felt ridiculous doing so, but wasn’t about to argue the notion with such a powerful creature.

“Am I allowed to go now? Are you satisfied? Will grinned at the ravenstag who seemed to be considering his questions very seriously. It held its solemn countenance long enough that Will began to grow uncomfortable, worry starting to prickle his skin. He found himself breathing out a sigh of relief when the creature finally moved out of his way.

“Thank you. I’ll be back as soon as this man is caught. It’s all about finding him first, and knowing where to look.” Will told the ravenstag before taking his leave, reminding himself to walk and not run.

Getting lost in his own head again the closer he got to the village, Will failed to notice that he was being followed in shadow and shade, though the form was much different than before. The empath’s admirer kept close to him just as easily on two feet than four. A keen nose scented the air in Will’s wake, the creature satisfied with its marking as it watched smaller fae invisible to the human eye run in terror away from his Will. Thin, wide lips pulled back in a knife like smile to reveal sharp teeth.

“I believe I can help you see your cannibal, dear Will.”

oOo
TBC

Chapter Text

Cassie Boyle was positioned over a stag’s head and across its horns, her corpse arranged elegantly in an artistic manner so that it looked as if she was floating. Will was frightened more by how beautiful he found the presentation rather than how horrific it was in nature. The fact it was the girl who had wounded him earlier did not escape Will’s notice either.

“Her lungs have been torn out of her chest.” Beverly informed Will and Lord Crawford. She was one of Jack’s favored scouts, and not one to shy away from looking at visceral scenes, into bodies, or anything else for that matter. She was one of Will’s favorite people. Mostly due to the fact that she was some of the few who treated Will in a normal manner, making an effort to understand him rather than use him or tolerate his presence.

Beverly had been given the task of surveying the field kabuki while Zeller and Price maintained the peace, keeping the rest of the villagers at bay. Lady Alana Bloom walked through them as well, lending her calm to those who needed it most, taking her time listening to fears, soothing frayed nerves, and diffusing volatile tempers. Lord Jack Crawford stood beside Will, the two men staring down at ruined woman.

“This isn’t the same man. I‘m pretty damn sure it wasn‘t even human.” Will muttered, finally looking away. He had seen all that he needed to. Further viewing seemed vulgar to him. He found himself wishing that someone would cover the poor girl up. She had been violated enough in his opinion.

“You think the other girls are dead?” Lord Crawford pushed, his own dark eyes still locked on the dead girl’s face like that would make her wake and tell them all that she seen.

“You’re smarter than that, Jack. You know that they are, that they’re not coming back.” Will chided. “No, this is something else. Something…other.”

Feeling shame, Will risked another look at the dead girl. Her murder shouldn’t have looked so lovely to him, like a gift made for him. He could tell it had been crafted, created special with a loving intent, though none had been spared for her. Cassie had merely been the building material and she had been treated as such. Her lungs had been torn from her while she was still using them like one would tear apart clay to reshape it.

“How can you be sure?” Lord Crawford asked, reminding Will that he was not alone in his admiration.

“I sensed an aura of love in those empty beds, one that did not belong there but lingered. It had an essence of devotion to it.” Will sighed, gesturing to the mounted girl. “There is no love here. This was meant as a disgrace, a public shaming. This girl‘s killer thought she was a pig. Treated her as such.”

At least none meant for her, Will added silently as he watched Lord Crawford digest his assessment. “Where did all that love go?” he muttered, angry but then to Will, Jack always seemed to be angry. His beloved wife’s sickness, the villager being chosen and killed by the King, and now all these disappearances were things that attributed to Lord Crawford’s rage. It was possibly why he was so fixated on controlling Will.

“I don’t know, but you’re not going to like my answer.” Will sighed. Hell, he didn’t even like it.

“What?” Lord Crawford asked in a cautious tone.

“It’s the King.” Will asked to find himself being quickly dragged off to the side by Jack, away from the corpse and the earshot of the crowd.

“The King?! How do you know?!” Lord Crawford hissed, which wasn’t any better than his shouting.

“How do I know anything, Jack?! I just do!” Will snapped back. “And I’m telling you it’s the King!”

“There was no blood markings. No writing over doors, no clue to indicate that it was the King. You’re going to have to give me a better explanation than that.” Lord Crawford argued, looked disgruntled but beginning to accept Will’s ill news.

“It was the King.” Will stubbornly insisted. He couldn’t even begin to explain how he knew. No one would understand and there no real words for it. It was just a feeling he got, one that whispered wicked truths in his head. How does one explain a voice that is not really spoken or give meaning to a dream where there is none to begin with? His visions were mists of the mind, intangible things that only he could make sense of, give voice to.

“I can’t tell the village that! There would be a panic!” Lord Crawford was doing his best not to shout, attempting to maintain some sort of calm with some many witnesses not too far from them. “The King has always announced his kills in the past. Why would he start hiding it now? What would be the point?”

“I don’t know, Jack. Who does with his kind? You know the Fae and Others play by an entirely different set of rules. For all we know, the King could be bored.” Will found himself lying to Jack, knew he was doing so. The King wasn’t bored. This kill had an intent, a meaning, one meant for him. He just didn’t know why or how he gained the King‘s attention of all beings. “Can I go back to my woods?”

“No. Not yet. Not until you’ve caught me this killer. The one we can catch at least.” Lord Crawford glared at Will before stalking off to leave Will with his gift, the ravens moving in on it to share its rotting wealth. Will looked to his forest, his real home with a longing, one stronger than he had ever felt before. He despaired as he heard the movement of the crowd behind him, upset and becoming unruly the longer he stood there with no answers to give them. The quiet of the woods, the peace of his dogs, and the presence of the ravenstag would all have to wait.

If humans had better vision, Will would have been aware of the crimson eyes that watched him back from the depths of the forest’s shadows, hidden in plain sight.

OoOoO

His daughter was promised to another, an agreement made at her birth. An arranged marriage that would benefit his house, but Garrett Jacob Hobbs had not counted on the beauty Abigail had grown into, the grace she carried about her person, or the vibrant nature that seemed to fill every corner of the room when she entered it. The very thought of his Abigail leaving him for another man and another life sent Hobbs into a panic, one that could only be soothed with the dying breaths of other girls that looked like her, and the taste of their flesh on his tongue, their life in his blood. It was a sickness, one that was devouring him the more he fed it. Even now it was driving him out of his bed to seek another’s, to steal another girl who wasn’t his daughter away into the night. To make that replacement for the one he loved fill the growing void within him as he filled it with their loss of life and flesh.

A well respected craftsman and hunter, it was not usually for Hobbs to be out and about during unusual times of the day or night. Some pottery could only be made in the cool of moon, and some animals caught under stars. It was strange to meet someone else out this late though. When he met the man, Hobbs was on his way to yet another girl’s home. At least it looked like a man, talked like one. Something about this stranger dressed finely in silvery gray and white garments was off enough to make Hobbs start to quiver with fear as he was approached.

The man wasn’t that tall but still managed to loom. His hair was ashen touched with chases of silver, the locks of it fluttering in front of eyes that looked more crimson than brown. His skin was tanned, weathered, and lined, but still held a youth and vitality that bespoke of immense strength. Power emitted from his form, making the air around him shimmer and move like it was being cooked from a great fire within him.

Frozen with terror as the greater predator move toward him in soundless footsteps, Hobbs flinched as the man leaned into his personal space, whispering into his ear. “Are you listening?” The man who wasn’t one murmured. His voice could have been wind beating against stone, it was so strange and low yet there.

“Y-yes.” Hobbs stammered, his body shaking with the effort to stay upright. The thing, the Other, leaned back to stare at Hobbs with glinting eyes, openly studying the man with a vague look of distaste mingled with amusement.

“They know.”

Hobbs blinked, his eyes finally forcing the issue. It was long enough for the Other to disappear, Hobbs finding himself alone again. With those two words branding into his mind and on his rabbit heart, Hobbs ran back to his home, unsure of what he meant to do next but confident in his ability to end it.

OoOoO

The ravenstag was in the village.

Will stared at it, trying to decide if its presence was just wishful thinking on his part or if the creature were actually there. When none of the guards making their rounds reacted to its presence, Will reasoned out for himself that he was the only one who could actually see it.

“Will,” He could hear Lady Bloom’s worry in her voice. “Are you alright? What are you looking at?”

“Nothing.” Will muttered, refusing to look over at her. He didn’t want to see the pity in her eyes. “Excuse me.”

Ignoring her pleas to come back, Will took off after the ravenstag, trying to catch up with it but the creature was fleet of foot, always staying ahead of the empath as he ran through the village with no known destination.

A scream tore through the night, drawing Will to it like a moth to a flame, giving him a purpose as Will darted toward the sound, the ravenstag keeping pace with him at his side. The source was a woman who was being held down by her husband, Will’s brain helpfully supplying the name Hobbs to the couple. That was as far as his thinking went in that area as other events took center stage. Blood, vibrant and bright, sprayed from Mrs.Hobbs’s neck as her husband slit her throat open, and shoved her to the ground to bleed out the last of her life into the dirt.

As Hobbs took off, Will chased after him, cursing the man and himself as he reached for his own knife. It was a small thing, but sharp, meant to filet fish and take off scales in a single pass. It was all Will had, was allowed upon his person while in the village, so it would have to do.

Another scream quickened Will’s pace as he crossed the threshold and entered a spacious room. A girl with auburn hair and bright blue eyes was crossing its space, desperate to escape her father and the look of murder in his white ringed eyes.

Acting more on instinct than anything else, Will threw his knife, the blade finding a target in Hobbs chest, the man dropping his own weapon to clutch at the one protruding out of his heart. As Hobbs fell to his knees, the dying man’s eyes were upon Will, holding the empath’s gaze before looking beyond him, over his shoulder at something. Will didn’t have to turn around to know what it was, feeling the puffs of hot breath on the back of his neck and the scent of the wild wood all around him.

“See?” Hobbs managed out before growing stiff and void in death’s embrace. There was a strange moment of quiet that seemed cold yet so clear to Will, filled only with the muted sounds of Abigail’s crying, his own heartbeat, and the ravenstag’s breathing.

It was shattered moments later by other people, Will moving forward to wrap his arms around Abigail as if to protect her from prying eyes, the girl sobbing into his shirt as everyone seemed to start talking all at once. To Will’s initial disappointment, the ravenstag was gone but he soon realized that something was left in the space where it had been standing.

Through the din, Will stared out into the crowd, his gaze locked on a man no one else seemed to see or notice, the man with the crimson eyes, razor cheekbones, and the bittersweet mouth. The man who smiled at Will, his expression a promise of dark things best left unspoken.

“What are you smiling at? Will whispered, knowing somehow that the man would hear his words through the chaos and the clamor, just as he knew that he would hear the Other’s answer. It was spoken in an accented voice made of earth and smoke, the sound of it lingering in Will‘s head.

“Peeking behind the curtain.”

OoOoO
TBC

Chapter Text

“You can’t do this, Jack!”

Upset, Will stood in the Lord’s house and dared to yell at him within its walls. Lord Crawford stared back at Will, looking unimpressed by the hermit‘s outburst.

“Can’t I? You know what her father did. I have eight different families demanding the whereabouts of their daughters, and swearing revenge upon her and anyone else who gets in their way if they don‘t get some answers or some justice soon. I need bodies, I need parts of bodies, something, anything, but more so, I need a scapegoat. Since Abigail is refusing to provide any of the former, she’ll fill in nicely for the later.” Lord Crawford drawled, leaning back in his seat to watch the other man glower at him.

“Her father killed alone. Don’t condemn her for his sins.” Will snapped to be met with a hard look.

“I can and I will. I have no other choice. Someone has to take responsibility and seeing how Hobbs killed off possible tributes, it only seems fitting that Abigial takes their place.” Lord Crawford said, leaning in to temple his fingers on the desk.

“She didn’t kill those girls. She‘s innocent.” Will reiterated stubbornly.

“I don’t believe that. I think she was as responsible for their deaths as her father. She played a part.” Jack argued, just as steadfast in his own opinion.

“Then explain to me why she is being made a tribute? The King isn’t even demanding an offering. No one has been chosen to die.” Will was up and out of his seat again, putting some distance between himself and Jack. He felt confined in rooms and houses after living out in the woods for so long.

“I need to do something with her to appease the people and if I can do so with the King as well, then her death will serve a greater good.” Jack explained in a voice Will was sure placated other people who were not him. “We’ve left others out in the woods before to be judge by him. They were dealt with, and so will Abigail.”

“You don’t know that.” Will shot back. “Isn’t that why you drag me out of my home. To tell you things you can’t possibly know.”

Jack glared at the hermit for reminding the Lord of his dependency on the empath. If it wasn‘t for Will‘s gift, Lord Crawford’s position would have been threatened several times over. “I didn‘t hear that!” He bellowed at the sensitive man, knowing what effect it would have on him as Will‘s eyes grew wide and white ringed. Jack didn‘t know what Will saw in those moments, what his gift showed him, but it was enough to make him back down.

“Sorry, Jack.” Will muttered, his eye dropping far and away to skitter about the room.

“It doesn’t matter. We need a tribute and Abigail fits the bill.” the Lord snapped as he further played his cards of influence and control over the hermit. “Stay out of it, Will, for all our sakes. I can’t guarantee your safety if you get involved.”

Moving stiffly, Will nodded, already making his way out of the room. Jack watched him go, his victory over the man bittersweet.

“Don’t make me break my promise to Lady Bloom. You know how she worries for you.” sent Will out of the room flinching.

OoOoO

Watched with a heavy heart, Will’s eyes followed the hissing mob of angry people as they led Abigail into the woods, the young woman dressed all in white, blindfolded, and bound.

“Will, there is nothing you can do.” Will heard Alana say from somewhere behind him, could feel her hand upon his shoulder trying to comfort him. He hated to be touched, especially when it was marked with pity. He could feel it seeping into his skin, tainting him as he curled up inwardly from the sensation.

“She doesn’t deserve this.” Will grieved, swallowing hard. He felt a deep sadness blooming within him. How often had his own nightmares placed Will in Abigail’s position? He knew what she was experiencing having lived it himself night after night.

“It’s not like you can take her place.” Alana tried to reason with him, pull Will away, back to her home. Another time, he would have let her, allowing her to trap him in too small rooms with promises of warmth, protection, and glimpses of stability. Now her words had a different effect on him.

“I have to go.” Will told her, stepping back to make Alana’s hand fall away. It hurt far less than it should have. The look the beautiful noblewoman gave him was sad, Alana already guessing to what he was planning to do.

“You’re not coming back, are you?” Alana’s words were most statement than question, but Will did her the courtesy of answering anyway.

“I think it would be safe to assume that.” Will smiled sadly at her, the Lady Bloom mirroring the expression.

“You’ll need to hurry then.” Alana nodded her lovely dark head toward the woods. She kept herself from reaching out as she watched her strange friend go back into the woods for the last time.

OoOoO

His pack running with him, the dogs trained to be silent as they did so, Will sprinted through the wild woods, tumbling and leaping over and through obstructions as he pushed himself to catch up to the mob unseen. His feet beat paths that animals only knew of which was probably why he happened upon the ravenstag as suddenly as he did. Relief flooded Will as he approached the regal creature, more so than anyone should have felt with facing an Other. Yet Will ran up to the stag to throw his arms around arched neck like one meeting a long missed friend.

“Please, please, please, I need your help. There is a girl being led into the woods. She is going to be left for the King. She going to die if I don’t get to her in time.” Will begged the ravenstag, pressing his face to its warm fur and feathers. He listened to its breathes, deep powerful things that made him sway in place as he pressed himself to the creature’s side. “Please just take me to her. You don’t have to worry about leading me out. I doubt I’ll survive this.”

The ravenstag did not sound pleased by this, the creature turning its head to prod at Will’s shoulder with its snout in question.

“I plan to take her place, but I have to find her first. I have a pretty good idea where they are taking her. It is more of a matter now of getting there before the King.” Will explained, his fingers clutching at the beast’s pelt. It seemed odd to him that he would never be able to do this again after tonight. He wondered if it had been wise to tell the ravenstag his plan of dying when he knew the creature was so fond of him.

To Will’s surprise, the ravenstag knelt on its forelegs, the meaning of the gesture obvious as Will scrambled to comply. The hermit climbed up onto the ravenstag’s back without hesitation, marveling at the chance to do so. It was the experience of a lifetime, reaffirmed when the creature began to move, the dogs even struggling to keep up with it as it flew through the woods on hooves that made no sound in passing. Will held on with hands and heels dug into the feathered hide, and yet felt no real fear of falling. It felt right to be here. Like he belonged.

OoOoO

Followed at a distance by the pack, the ravenstag and the hermit came upon a large clearing, one of those bare circular formations of land that somehow managed to exist in the hearts of forest. A clean slate of grass that the hungry press of underbrush and trees couldn’t seem to conquer despite the foliage‘s best efforts. In the middle of this space tied to a post was Abigail, bound and still cruelly blinded. She wept openly as Will approached, her cries soft and fearful.

“It’s me, Abigail.” Will told her as he removed the veil and the blindfold, meeting the wide eyed girl with barely a twitch. He was well versed in fear, could handle Abigail’s easily enough. To her credit, the young woman gathered her wits about her admirably quick.

“What are you doing here?” Abigail rasped, her voice cracking wetly. “They’ll kill you if they find you helping me.”

“The cowards are already on their way back to the village. They’ll sacrifice you solely for the sake of it, but not run the risk of meeting the King himself on their own.” Will snorted as he untied her hands from the post. A village idiot had nothing on a fisherman when it came to knot work.

“What am I going to do?” Abigail was on the edge again, panic replacing freedom as she worked painful circulation back into her fingertips. She was distracted from it when her shoulders were gripped tightly by Will, the hermit demanding her full attention.

“You need to go.” Will told her, his face set and resolute. “Run far away from here and never come back.”

It was the only way. Abigail couldn’t stay in the village. Not after what her father had done, innocent or not. There were others places she could go though, roads that wound their way through the forest to far off places and new faces who wouldn’t know who she was. Traveling upon these paths was a perilous thing, fraught with danger from bored Fae and hungry Others, but staying in or around the village would be an assured death.

“What about you?” Abigail asked even though she already knew the answer. Nothing happened in or around the wood without the King knowing about it. It was a fair notion to assume that he already knew someone was here, meant for the taking.

“Someone has to stay here for the horned god. I’m buy you some time.” Will smiled, meant the expression to be reassuring but it came off twisted. Resolute yet wrong.

“But the King….he’ll…” Abigail, bless her heart, was trying to reason with him. Will already knew the most likely outcome to this course of action though. Calling his pack over to him, Will selected his most loyal and talented out of the dogs to be a guide.

“Yes, but you deserve to live.” Will waved off her concern. It was sweet but a useless sentiment at the moment. “Winston will take you to my house. Take whatever you need from it. There is some money hidden underneath the loose stone by the fireplace. It should be enough to get you to where you are going.”

A thought made Will catch Abigail’s arm in time, the girl growing wide eyed for another reason as the hermit began to take off his clothing.

“What are you doing?” Abigail asked carefully to have Will gesture to her to do the same.

“Fishing has taught me that if you really want to catch the attention of something, you have to use the right lure. I need to dress up as bait and you need to wear something less white.” Will told her with a rueful smile as he tossed his ragged clothing at her head. They were well worn and practically threadbare, but their earthen tones blended in far better with the forest than her gown. Catching on, Abigail followed suit, quickly pulling the dress over her head in trade. The garment was more like a robe than a dress, something made in haste to wrap the offering up in. It managed to look just as unflattering on Will than it did on Abigail, but at least it came with a veil. Hopefully, it would be enough of a distraction to keep the King away from Abigail as she made her escape.

Helping Will with the veil, the two completed the disguise with Abigail tying Will’s hands to the post. He had no hope of escape, or winning against the King in a fight so Will reasoned he might as well be chained to his fate and complete the illusion he was striving for.

Looking torn between crying out of guilt and running off to safety, Abigail made her goodbyes to the hermit she barely knew, but who had saved her life time and time again. “Thank you.” she whispered before taking off, Winston herding her in the direction where she needed to go. The rest of the pack followed at Will’s command.

“Hopefully the King won’t be too picky about his dinner.” Will mused aloud to the empty space of night. He leaned against the post, and waited.

OoOoO

Will didn’t have to wait long.

Bound and basically blinded by the veil, Will steeled himself as he heard footsteps enter the glen, the man daring to peek through the gaps in material for a glimpse of what was coming toward him. The reveal was not good, a creature with skin so black it looked blue stepping into the moonlit clearing, its fearsome form outlined in silver. It stood tall and strange upon deer’s hooves, its lower half that of a stag’s and covered in dark fur. Antlers protruded from its forehead like a twisted crown of blood stained bone, and its eyes glowed bright as malevolent fireflies. Will’s breath got caught in his throat under the press of terror’s chilled fingers. The King stopped just short of him, close enough for Will to hear the nightmare creature’s clicking of teeth and feel the strange chill that rolled off of its body like trapped winter wind.

Though the material over his head obscured definition, it did allow him to track movement so Will knew when the King reached for him, curved claws hooking into the veil to slide it off of Will’s curly head.

“I’m a virgin.” Will babbled as the veil fell away to reveal his definite lack of feminine features. To his astonishment, the King made no move it kill him out of rage or irritation for being tricked. If anything it sounded like the creature was trying not to laugh at Will and failing, its amusement coming out in poorly stifled snorts, the sound of it like branches breaking in a hail storm.

His cheeks flushing hotly, Will looked down at himself in embarrassment. He couldn’t even die right. Possibly even worse, he was going to die in an ugly dress after being mocked by a creature straight out of nightmare and legend. Will looked back up, was made to do so, when gentle yet firm fingers took hold of his chin.

Gasping in surprise, Will found that the King was replaced with the crimson eyed man from before, the one Will had seen in the village after killing Hobbs. He was still dressed in silvery clothe that looked made of moonlight and mist the way it floated all about him, similar to a toga and tunic in design. It was simply adorned by a clasp at the shoulder, the blackened metal fashioned into the countenance of a stag’s head.

“Hello there.” The man said in an accented voice, low and husky enough to make Will’s lower regions tighten and warm. The words sounded eerily familiar for some reason to Will.

“Um…Hello.” Will answered, trying and failing to avoid the Other‘s sanguine gaze. “Are you going to eat me now?”

“I was going to inquire your name beforehand.” The corners of the Wendigo King’s lips twitched up in a quick smile. Will failed to see what was so damn amusing.

“Why?” Will pressed, at a complete loss. He had counted on being dead by now, not having a conversation with an attractive man shaped being that all but leered openly at him.

“Because it is polite.” The King left the ‘obviously’ unsaid, moving in even closer to Will who was suddenly reminded he was tied quite tightly to a post. Escape on so many different levels was a steep concept.

“Will it make me taste better knowing what I am called?” Will was kind of beginning to hope for death. He had always found small talk akin to torture.

“You seemed quite convinced that I am going to eat you.” the King was definitely amused and not bothering to hide it anyway.

“Well, aren’t you?” Will asked, feeling somewhat incredulous about the whole ordeal. What he really arguing with the King on whether or not he was worth eating?

“No. I have no intention of doing so.” The King shook his head, another small smile playing over his lips.

“Oh. Well…that’s…..good.” Will conceded up to a point. “ ….Why not?”

“My name is Hannibal.” the Wendigo King told Will, ignoring the question. “It is a pleasure to speak with you properly. I have been waiting a very long to do so.”

“We’ve met before all this?” Will’s gift gleaned and surmised. The King’s words and the meaning that resided in them was for too intimate for just glimpses in a crowd. He also didn’t take the bait, giving out his full name to one such as Hannibal. Names had power after all. “I think I would have remembered that.”

“Look at me properly and then answer your own question.” Hannibal’s mouth ticked up in another quick smile as he stepped back from the empath. Taking his time now that he had a viable excuse to do so, Will looked the Wendigo King up and down, trying not to stare too openly until his gaze settled on one of the King’s legs, the right one to be exact.

There was a scar there, one that was jagged from the teeth of a metal trap, the pattern of it unforgettable. Part of him had known that the ravenstag would have had a more human form, was capable of such transformative magic. It was far too powerful in the way of Fae and Others not to. Why Will had let himself forget that was beyond him as he let out a panicky stilted breath, recalling all his interactions with the ravenstag turned nobility in vivid detail. He had kissed the Wendigo King of the wild wood on multiple occasions and not even known it.

“I see that you recall our meetings now, the time spent together.” Hannibal said softly, moving forward again so that he was just mere inches from touching Will, the empath able to feel the chill coming off of the King’s body. It made him shiver, his wrists straining at the rope, drawing Hannibal’s attention to the restraint. Will watching in horrified fascination as the King’s reached for him, normalcy slipping away a bit as Hannibal’s hand elongated as his tanned skin darkened even further to an opaque shade, and blunt, neatly trimmed nails curved into keen claws. The talons running over the bindings made them fall away easily from Will’s wrists, cut cleanly through in a single passing.

“Yes, your Highness.” Will’s mouth was dry, his words rasping as they escaped him. He felt stupid, it was all so obvious to him now as he watched Hannibal‘s hand return to a more human version of normal. “I apologize for being so forward...”

“None is necessary. You did not offend. Truth be told, I find myself indebted to you.” Hannibal interrupted the man, his tone stern yet gentle enough not to scare Will. He reached out to stroke the empath‘s scruffy cheeks with what felt to be normal enough looking fingers. “You have my thanks and my gratitude. Is there anything I can give you? Any favor or wish that is within my vast power to grant?”

“I don’t want anything from you. I didn’t help you to gain your favor.” Will said feebly, shaking his head in time to his words, dislodging the King‘s touch. This was going to end badly. He knew the tales, the bedtime stories of Fae and Others offering rewards and wishes that never turned out well for any mortal. Wealth was often followed by death, beauty twisted, and immortality a farce of some kind or another.

“I am well aware of your pure intentions. I would not have offered such a boon otherwise.” Hannibal purred, leaning in to bump his forehead to Will’s own causing the man to jump and look at him wide eyed as Hannibal‘s arms wrapped around Will‘s waist. The wendigo king watched in amusement as certain realizations dawned on Will.

“You marked me…” Will whispered, reaching up between them to touch his forehead. “You know who I am. You’ve been to the village.”

“Yes, my dear sweet William of the family Graham, I know of you. You are mine now.” Hannibal pulled Will even closer to him until the lines of their bodies were flush with one another. “So I would be very happy to grant just about anything you ask of me. Within reason of course. Don’t bother telling me to leave your side. You’ll only be wasting your wish and you might offend me. I would suggest that you avoid doing that.”

Trembling, Will considered his options, all the ones that left him alive. They were far fewer in number than he would have liked. “Could you leave the village alone?” Will ended up asking. He felt awkward in this possessive embrace, not knowing where to place his hands on Hannibal’s body or even if he were allowed to. He settled them on the King’s chest, his scarred fingers grazing defined collarbone. Touching Hannibal’s flesh sent wicked chills shooting down Will’s arms though his fingertips, like he had just fallen hands first into a snow bank.

“You would spare those fools my judgment? After all that they have done to you?” Hannibal was not pleased, glowered at the man as his voice rumbled like thunder under Will‘s touch.

“It is human nature to be scared of strange things, and I am nothing if not….bizarre.” Will explained the best he able to, wishing he had the words to make the King understand.

“I am well aware of the minds of men and how they work. I could do what you ask of me, but it may come at a price. The village is a source of food and amusement for me. I might be willing to spare it and move on to another settlement in my territory if…” Hannibal began to let his words trail off in a tantalizing manner. He was going to let Will name the price and seal his fate by his own words.

“I would have to stay here…with you?” Will hazarded, his tongue stumbling over thoughts and notions. “Not much of a wish.”

“You don’t have to. If you thirst for power, I could kill Lord Crawford and put you in his place if you wanted to live in the village with the other humans. If you are more intent on revenge, I am capable of wiping out all of your enemies. If you’re set on neutrality, I am willing to protect you and your dogs for the rest of your natural lifetime if you decide to continue living in woods. You have options. I could make you rich beyond belief, powerful, young, or even immortal.” Hannibal pointed out. “But if you wish to save the entire village and for me to never darken any of their doorsteps again, you will have to consent to be with me, to be mine. Entirely and completely mine.”

“Mind.” The King brushed his lips across Will’ forehead like a blessing.

“Heart.” The wendigo tapped Will’s chest, the sound echoes back as Will‘s pulse picked up speed.

“Body.” Hannibal cupped Will’s genitals through the dress, giving them a light teasing squeeze.

“Forever.” the wicked legend of blood, pain, and night promised and threatened all in one word.

“May I keep my dogs if I decide to do this?” Will felt that he was on a precipice, balancing off the edge of it. Death lay on either side of this moment. Will had no doubt in his mind if he refused Hannibal, the King would make him regret it until the end of his days. Which would be short because the village would kill him for taking Abigail’s place and letting her escape. There was only one real answer here, but Will just needed one last push as he stared over Hannibal shoulder into the dark of the woods, catching movement and stirring from unseen things watching them.

“Of course.” Hannibal nodded, giving Will all the momentum he needed to fall forward. The King’s hands left off tender picks of flesh to start fiddling with the fastening of the dress..

“Then I agree.” Will said with a slight shake of his head. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Hannibal yet, though he felt fingers turning into claws once again as material was cut off of his body in thin strips at a time.

“Excellent.” Hannibal said softly. “Thank you, Will.”

“Now…I would like you to undress.”

OoOoO
TBC

Chapter Text

“Excuse me?”

Will tried to buy himself some time. His chin was caught and held as blue grey was made to meet a honey brown maroon quickly turning more crimson with every passing moment held between them.

“Please.” Hannibal told him sweetly, pressing a light kiss to Will‘s mouth.

Making quick work of the dress, Will stripped down, letting the snowy material fall away until all of his bare skin gleamed in the moonlight. “What are you going to do to me?” he asked, already knowing the answer, but felt the need to say something anyway. The silence between them was killing him, Hannibal watching his every moment like the monster he was.

“I am going to make you mine.” Hannibal answered, the smile on his face lazy and content. It reminded Will of a particularly vicious but well fed cat. Though his hands had left off to let Will remove his clothing by his own volition, Hannibal’s touch was back upon the hermit with a vengeance, greedy for the newly bared skin. Large hands slid over the firm planes of Will’s lean body, making the hermit shiver in their too cold wake. Hannibal’s touch made Will feel as if his body carried a fever under its skin. Fear and trepidation wasn’t enough to keep Will from reacting though, his cock already starting to swell and lift in anticipation.

“Can you be quick about it?” Will wasn’t sure what he was asking anymore or why, Hannibal’s hands finding him below once again to tease and caress. The cool nature of the King’s being made Will feel like his core was on fire as he was brought full and hard by slow strokes. No one had ever touched him like that before, especially there but in all fairness, Will had really never let anyone touch him anywhere period. He hadn’t been trying to be clever when he had spouted off that he was a virgin. It was his lonely reality with only his right hand for any sort of relief.

“Will…I am not going to kill you. Far from it.” Hannibal said softly before pressing a light kiss to the side of Will’s face. The human looked over in open surprise at him to have his lips claimed by the King, a hot tongue parting them as Will was tasted thoroughly, light hands running up and down his sides to start gripping the curve of Will‘s hips.

“Will you be gentle then?” Will tested, their lips parting enough for him ask.

“No. It is not in my nature, but I can try. For you, my dear Will. Only for you.” Hannibal told him. “Now get on your hands and knees for me.”

“B-but someone is watching us….I can feel it. See it out of the corner of my eyes.” Will stammered, glancing about them. He didn’t have a problem being naked. He didn’t like the idea of being watched very much as in at all though. “I know something is out there.”

“Of course there is. These woods are full of my subjects and they want to see who I deign to take as my consort after spending so many centuries ruling in solitude.” Hannibal told the hermit, belaying none of his fears.

“Send them away.” Will said, feeling his whole body flush. “Please.”

“Love me.” Hannibal pressed a kiss to Will’s jaw line to continue down the front of his throat as his large hands slid from the hermit’s hip to the firm globes of his ass.

“Obey me.” Hannibal mouthed into the crook of Will’s neck, biting down lightly where it smoothed into shoulder. The King’s teeth felt like frozen bits of metal against his skin.

“Do as I say and you can anything you’ve ever wanted.” Hannibal whispered as he devoted attention to reddening Will’s collarbones with his tongue and teeth. The hermit could feel those large hands on his ass parting the flesh, finger pads running in-between to graze his opening.

“Send them all away and you can have everything that I am.” Will said, biting his lower lip to keep from trembling. He had no experience in this sort of thing, not even knowing what he should be doing right now or where to place his hands. The Kind’s broad shoulders seemed the safest spot, though Will kept his hands light in their resting there.

Placing a kiss to Will’s heart, Hannibal released the hermit to stand up and away from him. Will was irked to note that the King was still dressed in all his silver finery while Will was left completely exposed. Having a blatant hard on did nothing to alleviate that feeling either. Will moved to cup himself to have his hands caught by the wrists in a firm grip, the hand holding them lost its humanity to black in an instant.

“Please refrain from touching yourself.” Hannibal ordered as his features blended back to nightmare, his onyx skin hairless and looking polished as stone. Antlers erupted out of his forehead, looking sharp enough to cut the starry sky into tattered bits of studded velvet. The King stood tall and proud, throwing his head back. The bellow that escaped his mouth was like a wave of sound shattered the night, sending whatever had been around them scurried backward head over heels in haste from them.

The great sound of it didn’t frighten Will like it should of, like it once would have. The hermit gazed upon the King, this strange being made of pitch, shine, and shadow. Its form was long and lean, all muscle with a marble like sheen to it. Long tapered legs ended in hooves, the feathered fur of them starting where a human’s ankle would have. The Wendigo King was a monster, but an unnaturally beautiful one and as it turned to look down at Will, he could see it was a well endowed creature as well.

Monstrous hands that ended in claws palmed Will’s face, turning it upward. The hermit accepted the claiming kiss the King bestowed on him though it left his lips freezing, and yet Will still felt no fear, something that had been his constant companion for a lifetime. Will almost felt abandoned, empty without it.

“Hands and knees, dearest Will.” Hannibal reminded the hermit, his tone gentle and his voice the same as it was before. Feeling blank and not knowing how to deal with that, Will sank to his knees like a puppet whose strings had been cut, his hands catching himself in time as to not faceplant into the grassy earth. His reality was changing faster than he could keep up with, leaving Will feeling a bit dazed and confused by the sudden turn of events.

Cold hands running down his back, feeling each and every one of his vertebrae in slow passing gave Will something to focus on, an anchor for him to lash his sanity to even it was sinking into depths he couldn’t go. Hannibal was behind him now, his winter breath making Will’s flesh goose pimple and shiver.

Feeling taloned hands take hold of his ass and part his cheeks, Will yelped more from contact than surprise when Hannibal pressed his tongue into him, slick and cold and very much there. The sensation of it tingled and burned at first, Will quickly getting used to it as the flexible muscle rolled and twitched in and out of him. Hannibal was opening him up, leaving slick and something else far colder in Will who strained against it, his fingers curling into tufts of grass to pull the greenery up. He wanted to touch himself badly, his erection leaking strands of precum, leaving special dew on the grass below him. When a certain spot was nudged inside of Will, it made him keen, back arching as the beginning to his end was set into motion. An onyx hand wrapping itself around the base of Will’s cock cruelly ruined that notion of pleasure.

Rocking against that grip to find any increment of friction, Will fought for his satisfaction, pushing back at the mouth that breached him until he felt teeth begin to bite into his ass from the pressure. Will could have cried when he felt Hannibal’s tongue leave him, a clawed hand still gripping the hermit’s ass to keep Will in place and left wanting more. A final squeeze to the base of Will’s cock ensured it would not be erupting any time soon, the slick at the end of it gathered up carefully on peculiar fingertips to be placed to black lips in taste and then to a puckered hole to make it mix with frosty salvia and wetly glisten.

When Hannibal stepped back from him, Will panicked, thinking the King was going to leave him like this. He rose to his knees, turning about to find Hannibal staring down at him with an unfathomable look. To his surprise, Will realized he could meet those glowing eyes with his sensitive own as he searched the King’s face for any clue of what to do next. The answer was easy enough to decipher. As inexperienced as Will was, he knew when someone was presenting themselves to him, the King’s cock fully erect and its bulbous tip dripping in rivulets.

Taking in a shaky breath, Will reached for it, Hannibal’s meat thick and slick as he pressed his lips to it. Will’s tongue flicked out to tentatively taste the Other’s salt, the essence of it sharp and musky with earth and old blood.

“Pleasure me.” Hannibal sighed, his hands already finding their way into dark curls to tangle in their twists and loops. In answer Will fully took the weeping cockhead into his mouth, running the flat of his tongue over it. Hannibal threw his head back growling as he eased his way further into Will’s mouth, hitting the back of the man’s throat. Eyes burning as he tried not to gag, Will focused on breathing and swallowing in turns. Eventually he found a pacing that pleased them both, Will’s eyes falling shut as he lost himself to the sensation of being used.

Taking himself in hand, Will stroked himself, groaning around Hannibal’s cock. It was enough to alert the King to his intentions, the monarch stepping away to free himself as his claws caught in curls to keep Will in place. His grip twisted, making Will hiss in pain and his hand fall away from his erection. The hermit’s eyes flew open wide to read the irritation plainly on Hannibal’s face.

“I told you not to touch yourself. Do you wished to be punished?” Hannibal said, his voice bittersweet and husky enough to make Will tremble in his grip. He gave Will a little shake by his hair to press his point home.

No…please. Please… I’ll be good.” Will begged, hating himself for doing so even as he was desperate to kiss that look off of Hannibal’s strange face. He rose to his feet, the King’s hold upon him allowing it, reaching up to loop his arms around Hannibal’s neck. The ravenstag had demanded his kisses, as childishly given as they were, so it was worth trying. Drawing the King closer to him, Will stole kisses from still features, smoothing them out further as affection took residence once more.

“Lie back. I want to see your face.” Hannibal said, disengaging from the affection. He hastened Will’s movements by picking up the hermit off his feet to place the man on his back, spreading Will’s legs apart wide to rest between them.

Leaning up on his forearms, Will watched as the King pressed his cock into him, slick with salvia and warmed up from Will’s mouth. Unprepared, Will fell back with a gasp as more length was worked into him, reminding himself to relax as Hannibal forced him open with his width alone. Pain was fleeting and did things to Will, the hermit feeling his flagging erection starting to harden again. Feeling swollen and too full, Will realized that Hannibal now loomed over him, braced up on his powerful arms, the King’s hands on either side of Will’s head as glowing eyes intently watched his every reaction.

Will winced and panted out pain as Hannibal started to move in small yet deep thrusts, the hermit holding onto the grass as if for dear life. Distraction from the raw twisting of nerves came in the form of kisses that lingered over Will’s sweaty brow and rosy cheeks, Hannibal lowering himself so that his body covered Will like a thick frozen blanket of meat and vicious intent. As the tension inside and around the movements of their bodies eased up, Will found himself baring down to meet Hannibal’s thrusts as their rhythm picked up. Wrapping his legs around Hannibal’s waist, Will urged the King to go deeper and faster than before, arching his back off the ground into the movement. The new angle did wondrous things to him, Will crying out as he was pleasured, his abused prostate sending out waves of bliss that made Will’s lower parts tighten and coil again, begging for a final release. Will could barely refrain from touching himself, his erection laying starkly against his lower abdomen creating pools of precum on his belly.

Opening his mouth to beg for respite, Will found Hannibal melding his own to him, their lips forming a perfect seal of flesh. It took a moment but Will realized that something cold was pouring out of Hannibal’s mouth into his own, filling his throat to the point of suffocation, the hermit swallowing whatever it was down to avoid choking. It burned, making Will feel like his body was caught in the grip of a terrible fever. One that was being forced out of him by this new sickness that filled him. Dizzy, Will screamed and even that was eaten up by Hannibal who worked Will’s throat with his black fingers, ensuring whatever he was being force fed was taken in.

Will was changing, could feel his body responding to the magic filling his belly and entering his veins as the King‘s nature took hold of him. Hannibal was altering him, bit by bit. Darkness was creeping in his skin, his natural paleness turning an inky black like blood in the water the way it fanned out across his skin, the same tone of Hannibal’s wendigo skin but not. Will‘s new skin held a shade of red that the King‘s did not, the hermit made to bear witness to his own transformation as Hannibal drove himself into him, sending Will reeling with the conflicting sensations of being created and destroyed at the same time.

“What are you doing to me?” Will gasped, watching in morbid fascination as the ink creeping through his skin to fill his fingers up, changing his blunt nails to sharp claws. He knew when the magic hit his head and crept into his skull, pain blossoming from his forehead as something broke through the skin there. Looking up and out of his peripheral, Will glimpsed antlers of his own becoming part of his skull, the new bone darkened by his blood as they reached upward.

His vision changed as well, the night lighting up like Will was seeing it for the first time as his grey blue orbs became gold, every hidden detail of the unseen world now outlined and illuminated as the reality of shadow and magic was revealed to him. Hannibal shone like an eclipse above him, his true form one of silver and light as the dark of his moon slipped away.

Gasping at the glory of it, Will reached up to touch the majesty of Hannibal’s skin, like solidified starlight. It was warm under his touch, the winter of flesh replaced with passion’s summer.

As Hannibal tried to lean back, Will surged upward with renewed strength, hooking his arms around the King’s neck to trap him in a kiss, one that Will devoted himself to. The magic that flowed between them now was alive and glittering, the two exchanging ecstasy as easily as they were spit.

His and Hannibal’s orgasm caught Will off guard, almost like an afterthought, reminding the former man turned wendigo what he was actually doing, what was actually still happening inside and outside of his new body. Will fought against it for it was in his nature to do so, the newly born Other crying out as he let go of Hannibal to gape up at his King and claw the earth, tearing the turf up as his elongated fingers left behind deep furrows in the soil. He was being marked inside and out, Hannibal’s seed searing and very much there within him, making Will gasp for air from the sensation of being filled even further. Hannibal’s clawed hand on his cock milked it for his own spent, Will thrusting in time to the motions as he rode out his pleasure.

Will realized he must of blacked out at some point because he woke up to the sensation of Hannibal’s tongue laving against his belly blistering hot. Focusing on the unusual sensation of being cleaned, Will took into account his new body. He found it most disconcerting that he no longer had toes, his new feet and legs fashioned in the same manner of Hannibal‘s, his feet now like that of a stag. He couldn’t even begin to describe how it felt to have hooves.

Pushing himself up on shaking arms, Will sat up to look down at himself. His skin held a patina, the solid black of his new body having an underlying crimson tone to it. His fingers ended in claws, sharp curved things that looked ridiculously sharp. Will knew he would end up cutting himself on them at some point in the near future. Reaching up tentatively, Will felt the new appendages he was most curious about. His antlers were nowhere as big or wide spread as Hannibal’s own crowning glory but they were definitely there. He seemed to have kept his curls as well from the feel of it though the rest of his body hair was gone to be replaced with polished stone like skin.

As Will came back to himself more and more, he realized that Hannibal had never left him, the other wendigo still cleaning him off in places and leaving behind his scent markers, ones that Will could smell now as his neck, shoulders, and chest were given the treatment. Hannibal’s musk was spicy sweet, like freshly cut cedar after rain and rose petals crushed into bloody snow.

“Lay back.” Hannibal murmured against Will’s fresh skin that still tingled and pinged with magic. The fledgling wendigo looked stunning to him, made perfect by his power, especially while under him. Licking a path downward, Hannibal took Will’s now flaccid sex into his mouth, running his tongue over it to further taste his essence as he finished cleaning off his mate.

Squirming as his over sensitive cock was touched, Will cried out beneath the King, arching his back as he tried to get away. Amused, Hannibal pinned down his hips to keep that from happening as he finished his task, though he left his own seed where it was in Will to mark him, some excess already leaking out to wet the new wendigo in between his thighs. If Hannibal had his way, this would be a common occurrence that Will would just have to get used to. Everything under the sun and moon would know who Will belonged to, who his master was, what being owned him so completely.

OoOoO

Feeling unsure about his ability to do so and very awkward, Will stood up on four leg as shakily as a fawn finding its hooves for the first time. Standing close by already in his ravenstag form, Hannibal licked tufts of his fur here and there, attentive of his mate but impatient as well. Stirred into movement by a nudging snout, Will took a few wobbly steps. When he didn’t fall over like he had expected to, Will moved to take another, and another, and then another. His confidence and balance grew with every step that evolved into a trot and then a flat out dash, his new hooves barely touched earth.

It was like he was meant for this as Will picked up speed. First as a test to see if he could and then because he enjoyed the way the scenery flew past him with minimal effort on his part. He could feel Hannibal keeping pace with him easily enough, but Will was too enthralled with the wind whistling through his antlers as it tried to tear the feather from his fur in passing to stop now.

It felt like flying, Will sailing over chasms and dancing along ridges when he came to them, light and graceful as breeze. He ran and he ran and he ran, bounding through the forest, never growing tired or winded. Will only felt the need to stop when he came to a meadow, and even then, he did so simply because he could. The view of the place was impressive to his new eyes, all glittering with troupes of Fae, and glimmering with the courts of Others, a strange mixture of living jewels and metals, light and shade, sound and silence.

They all regarded Will back with curious eyes that quickly averted themselves downward in deference as Hannibal took the field. All parted like a sea for the King as he strode through them, the monarch’s head held high and his antlers a crown made of silver and stardust. When Hannibal spoke, his sonorous voice filled the night to its brim.

“You have nothing to fear here, dear one. Be who you were meant be.” Hannibal commanded, speaking only to Will yet the declaration heard by all.

“I am who I have always been.” Will said, lacking lips but still managed to place a smile in his voice, the rare expression becoming more commonplace now for him.

“Mine.” It was a statement, not a question. A vow, not a threat.

“Yours.” was the answer, the only one that could be.

“Welcome to the world, Will. Welcome to the endless night.”

OoOoO

The End