The Iron Wolf lurks in the dark,
Its teeth pale and sharp.
To the Flock of Flesh it watches,
Catching Lambs of Meat by its claws.
Flesh and blood it swallows,
Bones and organs it rips out.
Down the narrow path it takes them,
To have them become one as itself.
The lambs screamed as the wolves took them down to their nest. It was a stone cave with metal spikes, like teeth, protruding from its walls, where moonlight dared not enter. A few candles burnt silently, revealing a single brass statue, a snake-like beast, of visible power and glory.
The wolves gathered, quickly drove the lambs to a corner, where they trembled in fear. The pack leader, the one with the sharpest teeth and claws, picked one from the lost animals and placed it on an altar. The lamb struggled, but it was futile, as the wolves applied iron spikes to its limbs, nailing it on the altar. It screamed, but the wolves did not care. The other lambs retreated further to the corner, as they lacked the claws their Shepherd had, nor did they possess weapons like the wolves.
The pack leader spoke in an ancient language as the ceremony began. The lamb’s stomach was soon opened, as the wolves tossed out its organs to a pit of burning oil in front of the brass statue. The fire burnt ever so furiously, as the wolves whispered to each other, and those whispers soon became chants and howls.
For every piece of meat the wolves cut off from their victim, more grew in its place in a cancerous fashion. The flesh, ill and corrupted, was pulled out, only to be replaced by more deformed parts. The lamb no longer resembled a lamb, but a lump of meat, shaking and crying, and yet the wolves did not stop. This was no more painful for the lamb than when the Shepherd harvested from the herd, but it screamed nonetheless.
It was when the lamb was almost reduced to a skeleton that the wolves stopped. Their metal claws were now stained with blood; the same red liquid had streamed from the lamb’s body onto the floor. The lamb could hardly move, and its breath was almost unnoticeable.
The wolves howled again. The pack leader gestured, and the pack took out sharp metal tools with gears, pipes and metal plates, instruments only crudely made. It was another set of veins and organs, a set they had prepared in particular for the lamb. The lamb saw it, but it was in no position to struggle. It watched as the wolves thrust the parts into its shell of a body, and listened as they started to spinning and clicking. It proceeded to scream, but the voice did not come out. The clockwork was now attached to its spine, and metal pieces fused and grew under its skin.
The wolves watched as this happened. After a few moments, the sound of clicking and grinding were no longer heard and the stomach of the lamb seemed to have sealed on its own. The lamb stood up from the altar, as the spikes, formerly nailing it down, were now part of its body. It did not look at the wolves, nor at the other lambs in the cave, as its eyes were now hollow and void of intelligence. It moved in complete silence towards the entrance of the cave. The wolves moved aside to let it pass, and watched as it disappeared under the moonlight outside.
“Bring in the next one.” The pack leader said, as another screaming animal was placed on the blood-stained altar.
The Iron Wolf stalks in the dark,
Its claws long and sharp.
The Shepherd pays it no attention,
For he is a beast himself.
Lost Lambs scream in panic,
Tamed animals it leaves behind.
The Iron Wolf came not for the flock,
It is the Shepherd’s throat it wants.
“The wolves have come.” She said.
“Pay them no attention. No need to meet their claws for some lost lambs. They are but food for us.” The Shepherd replied.
“I will return to my herd then.” She was not convinced, but decided not to argue, as she saw his arrogance. She stretched out her wings, and left in silence.
The Shepherd watched his fellow flesh herder disappear in the night sky, then turned back to his flock. It was a night of full moon, and he saw glowing eyes deep in the forest. He turned to the lambs, who were all in their pens, silent for the night. There was no movement, as the animals stared blankly at the night sky.
He smirked, and returned to his temple. The beasts were of no importance, and he had better things to attend to. He would not care to lose a lamb or two, and didn’t even bother to find out what the wolves wanted with them. Whether they intended to purify the world of flesh or make sacrifices to their brass god mattered not to him. He could always acquire more lambs from the wild flocks, after all.
The Shepherd sat down, and proceeded to meditate. For hours, his mind swam in a grander place, a place that was lost but would eventually return. He was interrupted however, by loud booming of thunder striking down. He rushed out, and saw that half the temple was burning as the lightning faded away. The scrolls, the materials and the supplies were all there, not that they were crucial of course, but it was enough for him to be furious.
He swore to cut off the wolves’ heads as he rushed to the forest to revenge. It was their mistake to openly attack him, as their claws and teeth were no match for his. Halfway however, he was stopped by the lambs, who were somehow out of their pens, and had gathered in front of the temple. They stood silently as they watched their herder.
“What are you doing here?” The Shepherd demanded, “Return to your place, lowly creatures!”
But for this once, his tamed flock did not listen to him. In fact, they did not even understand what he said, as they were no longer able to perceive words, or think in any way. It was only then that the Shepherd remembered their strange silence and their empty gaze. It was as if that the lambs only looked like such, but were now something else.
In slight panic and rage, the Shepherd exerted his power over flesh to the flock. The flock would have been reduced to puddles of blood or mashed meat, but instead, they started approaching. He did manage to peel off their skin, but only to reveal the horrifying machines beneath. Their spines were now metallic, their body parts were now grinding gears, and their blood was replaced with oil. They were indeed no longer lambs, as the metal parts, crudely pieced together, constructed unimaginable deformity. But even so, the parts somehow fit into each other perfectly well, as they made no sound at all.
The Shepherd took a step back, as he found himself surrounded. The lambs, the formerly tamed flock was onto him now, and he felt undignified. He easily smashed one to pieces, and the other one was sent back ripped in half. But for each lamb he tore down, more came in its place. Even the shattered pieces on the ground struggled to reform, and they quickly became monstrosity worse than before.
He had fought, but his flock was huge, the number of lambs he herded was unparalleled, even among his fellow herders. And there was no other material for him to use, as the wolves had just burnt down his supplies; there was no cattle for him to turn into beasts, as the wolves had taken them; there was no way for him to recover and regain strength, as the wolves had turned his potential food into metallic monsters.
The Shepherd struggled before his now mindless flock, each with sharp teeth and claws just like the wolves who made them. He took down one after another until there were too many wounds for him to heal himself, until the sharp metal spikes impaled his body, until he bled and was no longer able to call the blood back. The wolves watched this from the forest. They howled and smiled.
Finally, the Shepherd fell. The former lambs, now beasts of clockwork, bit and clawed at him silently. The wolves came out of the forest, and walked among their foul creations. They approached the once powerful Shepherd, and laughed.
It was the night of the wolves, as they bit through the Shepherd’s neck, and feasted on his body.
A long time ago…
“Why are you even protecting them?” The Karcist laughed, “Aren’t they merely lost lambs for you, food for your hungry dragon god? And I am but a Shepherd of Flesh, herding the aimless flock. They live until they are harvested, or when they are clawed down by beasts of the wild. What is the difference, if they end up in my dishes, or in your beastly mouth?”
“I shall be the Wolf then.” The Mekhanite answered, “I shall follow in your shadows, and remove the lambs from your flock. I shall eternally haunt you, as the lambs taken are lambs no more.”