Gnar bit softly the hand that was feeding him. He bit just enough to scrape the skin instead of piercing it. If the Verm who had been tasked with feeding Gnar had felt Gnar’s teeth piercing him, he would have cut off his own arm to stop the poison from Gnar’s bite spreading.
Advice the Autumn Crone Gave Me On Climbing the Wall
By Annette Marie Hyder
(from the Night Fairytales series)
Continued from previous installment.
The Great Wolf was trussed up and laced tightly against the tree which served as the center of the Verms’ encampment.* Magical restraints were not enough to assuage their unease in dealing with him and he felt himself flattered at the lengths they had gone to: magic enspelled him from using his own magic, ropes tightly knotted restrained him physically, and snakes coiled and hissed in the branches above his head ready to strike at the call of his guard. All of that and he had a personal feeder too. He was so tightly bound that he could barely swallow the food he was given. Gnar growled in approval.
It was well known among the Verm that a bite from a Great Wolf would inject the recipient of the bite with the Great Wolf’s saliva which possessed a property that, upon spreading through the bloodstream of the victim, put the bitee under the influence of the wolf who had done the biting.
The Verm, by name Twotongue, who was unlucky enough to be the one feeding Gnar huge chunks of dripping red meat (and doing so with trembling hands) was well aware of the danger of being bitten. Twotongue’s hands shook like fragile leaves on the ends of stem arms, blowing in the breeze of his fear. There was a fascinating loveliness to the delicate way in which he approached the wolf’s mouth with each piece — gingerly held between fingers as shy as hummingbirds — and fed each piece of meat to the restrained wolf with buoyant relief with each successful maneuver without the sharp bite that he feared.
Twotongue had a long pole on the end of which was a razor sharp head and he had to lay it down to feed Gnar. But every now and then, in between feeding Gnar and just to remind Gnar of who was in control, Twotongue stabbed Gnar with the long pole. Stabbing Gnar eased his anxiety and it left a satisfying smudge of darker fur every where he stabbed Gnar and the wolf’s blood welled.
The scene was almost peaceful with the trembling of Twotongue’s hands and the swaying of the ropes of snakes overhead as a complement to the creaking of the ropes that bound Gnar as he contracted and released his powerful muscles. With each contraction and release he loosened the ropes infinitesimally. With contraction and release, contraction and release, and softly scraping, softly scraping, bleeding from many wounds, Gnar consumed his meal.
Twotongue watched the Great Wolf contract and release his powerful muscles and it came to him that the ropes around the wolf would get looser and looser each time he did that. Worry entered the temple of Twotongue’s mind.
“HAARRSHHHH!” he hissed loudly, the call to his fellows for help. “HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH! HAARRSHHHH!”
At least he opened his mouth and that is what he meant to come out of it. But between opening his mouth and actualizing his intention, Twotongue felt a peacefulness wash over him along with a great delight in the wolf. A soft sigh escaped his lips in place of the call of alarm.
The wolf whispered a word and Twotongue leaned in to hear it better. He found himself suddenly filled with admiration and goodwill for the wolf where he had felt nothing but fear and loathing before. It sounded like the wolf had asked his name. “Twotongue” he hissed happily.
Twotongue found himself telling Gnar, not only his name, but also confiding the reason for the wolf’s capture. He surprised himself when, at Gnar’s suggestion, he hissed at the snake-filled branches and every snake, as trained to do on that particular command, settled into sleep. Sleep so deep it was almost a hibernation. As the tree branches became filled with sleep, a small thought darted into Twotongue’s head that perhaps all was not well. There was something suspect about the things he was doing.
But such was the influence of the Great Wolf venom coursing through his veins from the continued scraping, scraping, scraping, which had allowed three small drops to enter his body that he didn’t think that he shouldn’t be doing the wolf’s bidding. He only thought that he was not doing the wolf’s bidding in the manner such a grand creature deserved. He keenly felt the insignificance of his efforts and how unworthy he was to be doing these small things for the wolf. He longed for the wolf’s approval. The ‘wolfish’ grin on Gnar’s face looked friendly and magnanimous to Twotongue. He almost tripped over his own giddy feet as he hurried to help the wolf free from his ropes.
*The Verm worshiped the snake god Hissuotziquoatl and the tree that Gnar was bound to was famous as a holy spot for the Verms and revered as the place where their ancestors had emerged from the underworld into the world above. It was also the site of many a sacrifice to their god. There were times when the tree was heavy with fruit for the god that consisted of the heads of their enemies instead of snakes.