One born of earth,
Bearing darkness and light,
Shall oversee the humans and their kind.
Bringing misfortune to those with teeth so sharp.
A destroyer of hearts,
Bound to tear red flesh apart.
The cage’s rusted metal rattled as it was gripped; the curved cylinder housed many fingers belonging to the women who pleaded for mercy. Rema crouched between two other young women who looked two-and-twenty. They both raised their voices, joining the harmony of screams of the others through to the dreary fields of moss, sticks and twigs.
“THE GODS WILL PUNISH YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO US.”
The hunters of the village gathered the women of their community. They called them di Brokaa— the Broken. It was the women who were infertile and the young who disobeyed the orders of the elders. The women were dragged into the cage, cradled in the arms of the forest and auctioned for slaughter. Rema fiddled with the coarse woollen fabric of her plain beige cloak. She was of the silent type; she never spoke and was presumed mute by the other villagers.
The hunters clanged their swords against the cage and the rasp of the metals hitting each other reverberated. One man, Gale – the blacksmith’s son – spat at one of the women. “Shut your tongue, Brokaa.”
The woman, Emeline, Rema recalled, had her hands fisted around her worn cloak. Rema said, “You wait until the beast gets all of you. You will be nothing but flesh and bones, Huntaari.”
All the women in the cage stared at her, shocked at the words spoken.
Gale cocked an eyebrow, “The mute bitch speaks.” He smacked the bars, Rema recoiled, and he continued to laugh, “Brokaa bitch.” Gale slammed the cage open and collected Emeline, brought her close to the cage and run a blade straight across her throat. “Which one of you will be next?” The other Huntaari’s laughed and jeered, the women terrified of their fates at the hands of these savages.
They waited in suspense and fear. They waited in relief that a beast could be near. They waited in harmony for the beast to slaughter the men and tear… into them.
Nightfall sneaked upon them. Mother nature knitted a pure blackness into the sky, a blanket of protection before the torches were lit. The captors settled in their camp, clashing flasks filled to the brim with whiskey. The women were glad the Huntaari were occupied, so they faced the light and waited for the beast that roamed the night. Shadows of the moon and the torches wavered as every woman stood together. Rema learnt the names of other women close to her: Isolde, Sari, Jone, Milisent, Winifred, Belsante, Sibil, Elia, Odele.
The fire diminished into ever-glowing embers and the early rise of the sun; its golden-fingers shone across the valley. Yet, the beast did not appear. It was complete silence before chaos erupted.
The men ripped open the metal cage, dragging each woman one by one into the open and raining down their swords upon them. Rema backed into the corner with nowhere to escape. A plump and calloused hand grabbed onto her cloak. Her hood was pulled back and her eyes met the ones of her captor, the blacksmith’s boy. She wrestled against him, but he was too strong against her petite body. Rema resorted to her baser instincts – she bit into his neck and ripped out a chunk of flesh.
The blood surged out in thick and fluid strokes. He clasped his hands over ripped skin, and felt the gushing blood over his hand. Rema untangled herself from the hunter’s grasp. She tore her cloak from her body and threw it onto the ground next to the man’s paling body. Rema darted for the tall evergreens; the echoed screams of the others swarmed her as she eyed the hunters around the bodies of innocent women scattered across the woodland. There was a sort of bloodlust in her eyes at the damage done. Her mouth twitched at the many possible outcomes of defiling these men.
Suddenly, a hunter sneaked up behind Rema, her mind so occupied with rage that she was blind to her surroundings. His arm wrapped around her throat. Rema’s head began to feel light and there was a vision of white blurs as she tried to pry his fingers apart. She scratched deep, red, jagged scars into the hunter. Out in the open, Rema screamed silently as her body sagged against the brown, crooked bark of the hollowed trees.
Suddenly, a growl tore through the valley. The woodlands filled with a great shadow, a dark form between a man and a beast. Its blackened fur rippled with the light breeze as it stalked the hunter a hundred meters away from the massacred camp of women. The silence of the camp full of hunters was deafening. The wolf stood still and bent its head, snout tipped to the ground and curled up its gums to reveal razored teeth dripping with saliva.
All nine of the hunters stood motionless, ready for a fight. The wolf snapped and attacked the closest hunter, jumped and bit between the man’s neck and shoulders, ripped his veins out and grinned with blood-stained teeth. A sword was brought down onto the wolf, landing a blow on its hind leg, as it let out a screeching whimper. The hunter was decapitated as a result. Another one’s eyes were gouged out by the wolf’s claws, and another’s stomach shredded, whilst two of the men’s intestines scattered across the forest floor.
Only two of the hunters were left, and both circled this big bad wolf. The wolf snorted in amusement as it ducked into a low bend and stood up on its hind legs, towering over the two men. It could smell their fear. It leapt and both its claws punctured into both men’s hearts and ripped them out of their chests. Teeth gnashed in a frenzy of feeding, the remnants human. The forest floor was a sea of blood. The wolf strode alongside the human massacre. It eyed a clump on the ground, it sniffed around it until it was between its teeth.
A cherry-red soaked cloak dripped with fresh blood. The garment lifted from its mouth as a hand untied the string and retied it around her naked body. Rema swiped across her blood-stained mouth, and remnants of human flesh stuck between her teeth as she made her way back to the village.