Chronicles of an Animal Control Officer: 1. Howler
It was a pleasant evening, not too hot and not too cool, and this far into the suburbs the sounds of the city were muted to little more than a vague background murmur. Very peaceful, tranquil.
Pity it wouldn't stay that way.
Almost as if his thoughts had summoned it, a fearsome howl shattered the evening stillness. Kir pushed away from the telephone pole he'd been leaning against, shifting into an easy run in the direction the sound had originated from. South-east, down the street until it began to veer off-course, then up and over suburban fences until he could drop into an empty lot just beginning to show traces of construction.
It was quiet. Kir waited where he'd landed, feeling the dust settle around him. Nothing made a sound, not a cricket, not a cat. An unnatural stillness.
Kir frowned. A certain amount of startlement was to be expected, but this was different. His quarry shouldn't have caused this kind of reaction. And while there were several possible reasons for the stillness, none of them boded well.
When nothing immediately presented itself, he slowly stood and surveyed his surroundings. Dirt and scrub, a portable outhouse, a bit of machinery - and a shadow, slowly detaching itself from the larger shadows around it.
He bit down on the urge to curse colorfully. That was not the rogue werewolf he'd been sent out after. Not even close. That was a bloody fucking fenrir.
The enormous wolf crept steadily toward him, teeth bared in a barely-audible snarl. Obviously, it didn't appreciate its evening hunt being interrupted. That was fine; Kir didn't appreciate morons misinforming him.
Stopping just out of range, the fenrir wolf threw its head back and howled. The sound was eerie, hair raising, and the circle of stillness spread even further as all the creatures in the area hid from the predator. Kir didn't blame them. Fenrir wolves took dangerous to all new levels.
Of course, it would take more than a howl to scare off Kir.
He deliberately smiled, baring his teeth to the beast. The fenrir wolf snarled and lunged forward, its jaws snapping down over the empty air where Kir's arm had been moments ago. The battle had begun.
Kir leapt to one side to avoid the teeth again, weighing his options. He'd been expecting a werewolf, and so everything he'd brought was for taking in one of that ilk. Unfortunately, fenrir wolves did not share the same weaknesses as werewolves.
When the beast's next attack got a little too close, Kir whacked it on the nose and took off running before it could do more than howl at the pain. He managed to gain a little distance before the fenrir wolf recovered and came after him, but even a little distance was one he could use to his advantage.
There was only one way to capture and hold a fenrir wolf. Unfortunately, gleipnir ropes were in short supply. If he'd known ahead of time he could have requested one on loan, but he'd been sent out after a (relatively) harmless werewolf.
He'd just have to improvise.
Reaching up, Kir yanked out a hair and whispered to it as he ran. Longer, stronger, bind the darkness. It wouldn't hold forever, or even very long, but it would buy him more time. Whether or not it would be enough time remained to be seen.
Ducking around behind a parked backhoe, he made a point of whistling sharply. If the fenrir followed the usual pattern, then it would correctly gauge his location and-
Kir dove out of the way just in time as the fenrir wolf came up and over the backhoe exactly as anticipated. As the deadly claws passed just by his face, he snapped the hair-rope out to wrap around the fenrir's paws. It fell with an outraged howl, which Kir ignored in favor of tying the ends together and bolting.
If he'd estimated correctly, he had approximately eight and a half minutes before the fenrir got free and came after him with death in its eyes.
Which meant he had to come up with a way to capture it before it caught up with him.
It was the suburbs. Quaint, tidy, clean, and about the worst possible place to be when searching for the items he needed. Still, these particular suburbs were unfinished, which meant that there was still wilderness nearby, which hopefully meant-
Kir leapt up over a high fence, landing on the other side and smiling grimly. Sure enough, this close to the edge of civilization "city" rules didn't quite apply and there were still some people who kept chickens.
Or, more accurately, hens.
"Hello ladies, Kir murmured as he opened the door to the coop. The hens were mostly asleep, only giving a few halfhearted clucks as he searched for what he needed.
Most people would tell you that hens' teeth were a fantasy; most people didn't know a fraction of what Kir knew. The trick was knowing where to look, and knowing what you were looking at when you found it.
Scooping up his prize, Kir swiftly re-latched the coop and vaulted back over the fence.
There wasn't enough time to make a true gleipnir; the materials were too difficult to obtain. But he didn't need to bind the wolf forever, so a lesser imitation would do.
The next fence he vaulted over, he took extra care not to land roughly and startle the creature he sought. With a fenrir wolf in the area, most sensible creatures were holed up somewhere safe until the danger had passed.
Not that cats were particularly sensible at times, but even the most cocky of alley cats would think twice about strolling around with a fenrir on the prowl.
He was in luck too. Hidden in the recesses of a rather plush doghouse, Kir found a large tabby cat huddled in the back. There was no response the first time he called, or the second, but by the third there was a faint stirring followed by the emergence of a very wary cat.
"Hello there, lady," Kir said softly, reaching out so she could get his scent. As expected, once she had it she all but launched herself into his arms.
"I'll get rid of it, lady, don't you worry," Kir murmured soothingly, deftly reaching between the pads of her feet to extract the next piece he needed. A single drop of silence as only a cat could possess, masking all the other sounds of her day.
It appeared to be a very potent drop. She must be quite the active cat when there wasn't a wolf in the area.
Stroking her softly, Kir returned the tabby to her hiding place and turned toward the house. From the look of the yard, it was highly likely he'd find his third ingredient here.
The door was locked - they always were these days - but that was hardly a deterrent to Kir. He merely shifted into smoke and slipped in through the cracks.
Inside, it was dark, but the antiquated decor reinforced the notion that he'd find what he needed here. A little bit of prowling located the bedroom containing - perfect - an elderly couple.
Beard of woman, he needed. Somehow, he doubted the old woman would mind the loss of a few scraggly hairs that insisted on growing in places they shouldn't.
Cupping his hand near her face, Kir blew softly. The hairs swayed for a moment, then one by one tumbled into his palm.
He headed back out as swiftly as stealth allowed, pausing briefly in the kitchen to snag a few bubbles from the fish in their fishbowl. An unexpected bonus, but one that would prove quite helpful in strengthening the bindings. There was no hope of finding mountain roots or bear sinews in the mountainless suburbs, but he had something that would make an adequate substitute.
It would hurt, but he didn't really have any options.
Kir waited until he'd cleared the fence and was back on the street before reaching over his shoulder, sliding his hand down beneath jacket and shirt until he felt the familiar soft brush of delicate feathers. Bracing himself, he grabbed one and yanked.
The pain nearly sent him to his knees. His vision greyed momentarily, and even when it cleared he still felt wobbly.
Was it worth it? Well, no, not really, but he had a job to do and a loose fenrir was not a good thing for anyone. But he wouldn't have had to put himself through such torture if the morons at the office had sent him after the right creature. Really, who couldn't tell the difference between a fenrir wolf and a werewolf? They had nothing in common!
Once he felt slightly more steady he began to weave the hairs around his feather, inserting the other pieces as he went, until they were all bound together. A soft breath and a whispered word later, and he could shake the little bundle out into a length of glittering copper-colored rope.
Hopefully it would be enough. It would have to be enough, as he heard an unmistakable howl as the fenrir freed itself.
Time to go to work.
Rather than running away from the source of the howl as any sane person would, Kir moved toward it at a rapid pace. He called out a challenge of his own - nothing like the fenrir's, but then he wasn't a wolf - and smiled grimly when an angry snarl came in response.
Really, some things were too easy to predict. Like the way an angry wolf would react to a direct challenge, to the point of giving away its location.
Circling around, Kir came at the fenrir from the side, using the instant provided by the surprise to snap one end of the rope around the fenrir wolf's front paw. The beast snarled in rage, whirling with unnatural speed and snapping viciously. Kir only just managed to get his arm yanked back in time, and that only because he'd been expecting it.
"Trust me," he told the wolf, "you don't want to bite me."
Not that the warning did any good; the fenrir snarled and lunged again, giving Kir the perfect opportunity to roll under it and loop the cord around its rear paws. Without bothering to even get up, he gave the rope a hard yank, causing the fenrir wolf to howl and fall over.
Quickly, he tied up the last foot. Caught.
But not subdued.
Kir hissed in pain as teeth pierced his arm, but the wolf yelped loudly and immediately released it.
"I told you you didn't want to bite me," Kir stated flatly, ignoring his bleeding arm for the moment to tie a quick muzzling loop around the beast's jaws. Not everyone could take a fenrir bite without losing an arm. Only one of those had blood which contained fire so hot that it would make even a fenrir wolf let go to get away from it.
With the wolf finally immobilized, Kir trekked back to where he'd left his truck, quietly cursing werewolves, fenrir wolves, and the morons who couldn't tell the difference between them.
Back at the truck, he opened up the back doors first, checking to be sure the wards were still strong, then opened up the door to the cab. Three pairs of sleepy eyes blinked up at him from the seat; Akisu yawned and uncurled, padding across the seat to butt up against him in greeting.
Kir's irritation faded almost immediately. "Hey there beautiful," he murmured, stroking the kitsune's ears. A moment later Itazura, seeing his littermate getting attention, scampered over to receive pettings of his own.
"Rascal." Kir smiled.
When the foxes had gotten their fill of attention, Kir fetched the emergency supplies from behind the seat. He didn't get into them often, and his arm would heal perfectly well on its own, but he needed it whole to lift the bound fenrir wolf into the truck. A few sparing drops of unicorn oil would make everything as good as new.
Even if the stuff was painfully expensive.
His arm was healed before he even had everything properly stowed again. Kir gave the kitsune one last caress each, reaching over them to make sure George wasn't left out, but the little dwarf dragon just gave a sleepy rumble and barely stirred.
"Lazy," Kir said fondly, closing the truck door and driving back to where he'd left the fenrir wolf. Looked like his impromptu bindings were holding. It was still there.
Getting it into the back of the truck was still a hassle, as even bound it was big and squirmy, but eventually he got it stowed. After that it was just the drive back into the city proper with two kitsune vying for possession of his lap, prying them loose once they arrived at headquarters, and transferring the fenrir from the truck cage to the more powerful ones at HQ.
Once that was accomplished, he parked the truck, admonished Troubles One and Two to behave, and headed into the station itself. This late it was fairly quiet, but he suspected the person he was seeking was still there.
She was. Sitting on Igor's desk, chatting up a storm while the vampire did paperwork. They both looked up as Kir stormed in, though only Igor winced when Kir slammed his hands down on the desk.
"You," Kir growled at Celaina.
The harpy woman calmly arched a brow. "Hello to you too, Kir."
"Fenrir, Celaina. Not a werewolf."
"Your glamour's still up," Celaina replied mildly.
"Fuck my glamour!" Kir growled. "How the fuck can you not tell the difference between a werewolf and a goddamned fucking fenrir?"
Celaina arched a brow. "Big scary wolf-creature terrorizing neighborhood. Yeah, that's so obvious."
"They look nothing alike!"
"To a human?" Celaina countered.
Kir glared. "A human wouldn't have called us."
"No," Igor said, breaking in, "but a human would have called Animal Control and they would have passed it on to us once they realized what they were up against."
Neither Celaina nor Kir broke eye contact.
"You sent me out there completely unprepared."
Celaina snorted. "You are never unprepared. You brought it in, I'm sure, regardless of how 'prepared' you were."
"That's not the point!" Kir snapped.
"You brought in a fenrir wolf?" Igor asked, surprised. "How? To hold a fenrir, you need a special rope..."
Kir scowled. "Gleipnir, and I made one."
Even Celaina looked surprised at that. "With what?" she asked. "I thought the components no longer existed."
Kir grimaced. "I improvised."
Igor shook his head slightly. "No wonder the boss sends you out after the hard ones."
Kir opened his mouth, then shut it again.
"... he does?"
Both Celaina and Igor nodded.
Kir swore. "I'm going to flay that bastard alive, horns and all."
Celaina snickered. Igor looked thoughtful. "You know, I think I'd pay money to see that."
Celaina rolled her eyes. "Boys."
"Whatever." Kir looked pointedly at her. "You're still on my shit list."
"Yeah, yeah." Celaina waved a hand. "Go home, Kir. You're far less aggravating when you've gotten some sleep."
"Bite me." Kir straightened, watching as Igor's hand crept toward the box of sanitizing wipes that never left his desk. Times like this Kir was tempted to get completely filthy on a case some time then come into the office and get as much of it on Igor's desk as possible. But Igor managed to mostly behave himself when others were present, so Kir resisted.
Although one of these days he was going to replace all of Igor's Purell with epoxy. That would be a glorious day.
Kir left the office, hearing Celaina's chatter resume as soon as he was gone. At least she wasn't trying to flirt with him today. Igor was a much better target, even if he was a neat freak. Although, Celaina was incredibly tidy for a harpy. Maybe she liked Igor's neuroses.
And maybe she was baiting him into a false sense of security to play her own Purell-superglue trick.
The thought made him smile as he opened the truck door to let Akisu and Itazura out. George yawned at him, only giving a sleepy rumble as Kir picked him up for transplanting to his car. "Time to go home," he told them, receiving an excited chatter in response as Akisu and Itazura dashed for the sleek blue GT-R parked in employee parking. He got them all settled in and pulled out, enjoying the relative lack of traffic due to the lateness of the hour.
Driving in the city during the day took either incredible patience or prolific use of magic.
Kir felt sorry for those poor saps who couldn't use magic.
Soon enough they were home and piling into the house. Kir made it all of three steps before something tripped him and sent him sprawling face first onto the carpet.
Kir shoved himself up onto his elbows and glared at the ball of black fur sitting innocently in front of him. "One of these days I'm going to land on you and squish you," he told Hellspawn.
Hellspawn simply purred louder and twitched her tail.
Grumbling fondly, Kir got to his feet and headed to the kitchen to feed the furry miscreants. Well, three furry, one scaly, and himself of course. Himself last. It was better for his continued health.
Finally, with all fed and content, he could collapse into a chair and drop his glamour. In the next moment he had a lap full of miscreants; he'd never figured out why they liked his natural state so much better. He still smelled the same. It was just a cosmetic difference.
All non-humans wore glamours, whether of their own making or via a spell-stone. It was simply the way it worked. There was talk of a coming-out movement somewhere in Europe, and a few rumors regarding some town in the Australian outback where humans and non lived together openly with no disguise, but the majority of the world preferred to retain its anonymity.
So did Kir. Even though he didn't look particularly dangerous, people would stare. They always did. Even among non-humans, blue skin was unusual. And Kir hated being stared at. So he'd crafted his earrings to maintain the illusion of a tanned, blond-haired human so he wouldn't have to put up with the endless curiosity. He was what he was, and it was nobody's business but his own.
Finally deciding that they'd all gotten their share of petting, Kir shooed the miscreants off his lap and headed for bed. It had been a tiring day, and there was no telling what tomorrow would hold.
Although, knowing Kir's luck, it would involve another three A.M. wake-up call and somebody's pet gargoyle rampaging through the neighborhood.
Some people just shouldn't be allowed to own pets.