Chapter 2 – Varc

“I, uh…I thought all of your, er, type wore red?”

Bonnie Blackcoat was a nickname she had. Because of the coat. The black one, with a hood that covered skin darker than most in the snowfields. Not the warm bronze shade of the nomads, nor the deep brown of the southerners. An olive tone, some would call it, though that always made her think of fruits. Were olives fruits? Probably.

Skin aside, Hunters wore red, that much was true. It was a marker, impractical though it might be. Few places in the area were red enough to make the color suitable for camouflage, and even then, blood red tended to stand out. 

Traditional, but not required. And she did have her badge, along with a sufficiently red vest under her coat.

“I see, got it…right then.” The man in glasses had a nervous air to him. Blue lenses like blue eyes. Half a mask hiding what jaw he had, assuming he had one. He spoke like he did. “I assume–not to presume, I just–You, ah, know why you’re here–why we asked for a hunter’s services, right?”

She did. The Hunter’s Union provided information, as typical. 

“Great, good, very good. Then, ah…do you need anything else?”

She didn’t.

There were a few different names for what the Hunter’s Union termed a “varcolac”. Lycanthrope was popular, werewolf was more so, though the Union preferred its own term. Terms always came with presumptions, it was the nature of defining something with a word. The presumptive preconceptions such terms could cause resulted in decisions being made that were hazardous at best.

For instance, the idea that a varc retained its humanity at all was a dangerous one.

Certainly, there were aspects that were retained. Intelligence was one of them.

Sheep had gone first, then the sheepdogs and the shepherds. Townsfolk and travelers were next, and a distress call was put out. The Hunter arrived.

Bonnie arrived at a shack. Rudimentary, built against a cliff side. Gnawed bones surrounded it in a ring, a mark of ownership. A ward for things that may try to hunt in its territory.

The door was locked, but easy to kick in. A woman inside screamed fearfully. Bloodied rags barely kept her modest as she cried and begged for safety and sanctuary amid the bones tied on strings hanging from the ceiling. She had a take to tell of being abducted in the night, of savage cruelty at the hands of the monster that was bound to be coming back.

The woman was correct, of course. The varc had been in the woods the whole time, watching Bonnie’s approach.

A varc was not a wolfman. It was a wolf in human skin.

Strips of flesh hung over its snout, clinging to the matted and grimy fur. The remains of a human face hung over its head like a hood, its eyes peeking out through tears in the skin. Its limbs were too long and bent in ways a human could not, its fingers long enough to wrap around a human skull with just one of its over large hands, and its feet were gnarled, claws digging into the ground as it loomed in the doorway, hunched as it pushed its way in.

Its jaw distended, wide and salivating when a bullet slammed into and through its maw. A mist of gore spread from the hole in its skull before a second shot pierced through the filthy fur of its chest. Brain, then heart, then belly. It was the best way to put down a varc.

The mouth was not the brain, though they were close. Not close enough that the varc went down immediately. The woman was screaming as the beast charged, her shriek loud enough to be painful. The varc didn’t register the noise, its attention fully on the Hunter in its midst, and Bonnie rewarded that attention by drawing her revolver and firing thrice, this time catching it in the guts, the heart, and the eye.

The third bullet pierced through and its skull erupted as it collapsed to the floor, narrowly missing Bonnie as she stepped to the side. 

A fourth bullet found its way into the top of its ruined head, destroying what was left.

Bonnie looked to the woman.

“Y-You…you killed it…Saints above, thank you! I-I thought…I thought I was going to die…”

Bonnie assured her she was safe. Then she held a knife out to her, for her protection.

“H-Huh? But…the monster is dead, r-right? I-I don’t need–“

Bonnie insisted.

The woman looked at the knife. She lunged.

Some varcs were smarter than others. They considered and planned. Some made trinkets of bone to decorate their abodes. Some would even make weapons from bone.

Never steel though. Silver burned against the body of a varc, that much most knew. Fewer knew that other metals would tarnish and rust in a varc’s grip. Wood would rot, cloth would reek. Only bone could be touched without spreading the natural ruin of their bodies.

There were other signs. A varc would have their eyes further back, a gap between the flesh and the fur beneath; they would not shiver in the cold, no matter how much skin was bare to the chill; but metal was the best way to test. And bullets would still do sufficient damage.

She only had two for the brain and the belly though. She needed her knife for the heart.

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