Wolf Trial
:: chapter 1
   The office was quiet, and Finley Harring was absolutely bored out of his mind. His boss, Moone, was busy with paperwork he wasn’t allowed to touch. The only sound in the room was the sound of notes and signatures.
   He scribbled on the cheap, white plastic table with washable markers. He could only watch as the colorful ink collected itself into drops.
Moone gave a furtive glance amidst his affairs. “Are you going to waste all our ink, or will you help me?”
“You need a signature or something?” Finley replied flatly, crushing the head of the marker against the table.
“Not particularly. But I’d rather you not do…” he looked over at the table of abused markers, “…that.”
Finley threw a marker over the table, where it clacked and rolled onto the rug. Moone stood to pick it up, as he had been doing for a while now. Finley had bestowed at least five by now.
“You can either work, or go sit at the bar and lose a paycheck. It’s on you, Mr. Harring.” This time, Moone threw the marker back at him, where it hit his shoulder.
“It’s so boring in here, Moone,” Finley groaned, resolving to sit, then lay, on the floor. He twirled a pencil in his fingers, looking up at Moone.
“Get up,” Moone commanded, a blank expression on his face as he went back to work.
“Fine, fine,” Finley said, gathering the markers from Moone’s desk and sitting back down. Then he unceremoniously dropped them on the floor — earning a tsk from Moone — and picked up a file.
"What? Werewolves? Is this what we’re doing?”
“It’s what we were given,” Moone sighs, bringing over another file. “If you don’t like werewolves, you can take over the guy who’s buddies with him?”
“Werewolves aren’t real, though.”
Moone shrugs. “Perhaps. Or maybe the stories are true of one very real werewolf, and if we investigate it, we get paid whether it is or not.”
Finley smirks. “The things you do for money.”
Moone leans forward a bit onto Finley’s desk. “Do you want to pay for decorations and renovations for the office out of your own pocket?”
“We could also just not decorate.”
“And be that one dull little company that doesn’t? I don’t think so.”
Finley flips through the file. “If we’re looking through histories like this, I think we already are.”
Moone turns away at the remark. “Get it covered,” he says, snapping.
“Yes, sir,” he says, mocking him.
In the file, there was a typed report, waiting to be read.
Finley glared at Moone. “Did you only give me this to make me work?”
Moone glanced at Finley, casting a big, fake, mocking grin before looking away.

The Wolf Trial (Anonymous Report)

Silas, a beastly wolf-man, had been terrorizing the forests around a now-extinct village. He had moved there as a human, but eventually fell apart and became a beast. It was reported that he even killed his camping partner, Ary Lauftman, in a transformation.
A change has been thought to have been made by the acquisition of a certain relic by which his travel to the region began; he called it the RAINBOW RELIC(1). This relic, as was reported by Silas himself, would allow a human to change form at will when together. It is also worth mention that, in the same report, he stated that it “would be absolutely useless” if taken apart.
He proceeded to shatter the breakable shards and scatter them across the field as he walked along with Ary. There was a longer-than-expected delay; he refused to elaborate when he arrived back, and neither did his rather subordinate companion [Ary Lauftman](B).
A few weeks later, Silas began his slaughters on the village. At the time, no one, aside from his companion, was aware that it was him. The connections were only made after Ary was seen in town alone and noises were heard in the house.
Silas was dragged out one night, where he openly murdered the man who opened the door. Ary attempted to soothe the beast, but when his effort failed, the beast killed him as well.

Silas was strung up in the middle of the day, looking considerably disheveled. He had been beaten in the night by his werewolf form crashing around the stone walls.
He thrashed around for a while, refusing to give his or his companion’s personal information. He also refused to share the location of the relics, dying with their true burial sites.
In the end, his body was killed by a bullet of silver to his heart, and the villagers tore and kicked at his body.

Finley blinked. “Is this a thing? That actually happened? In the world?”
Moone put the last of his paperwork into a sort of collapsing file folder. “I haven’t had time to fully evaluate it, but considering it was sent straight to the top, I can believe that there was merit to the idea.”
“Magic like this doesn’t exist anymore, though.”
Moone held up “It’s the idea that it once did that’s keeping this on your desk. The fastest way to get it off of your desk is to investigate, no?”
Finley gasped loudly, clasping his hands to his heart. “Wait, investigate? You’re letting me do investigative field work? Oh, wow!”
Moone pointed to the door, not even wasting a second to look up at him. “Out.”
“Aw, and I thought we were friends,” Finley said, hurrying to put his things in his bag. “Guess you gotta stay here alone, huh?”
Moone smiled, looking up at Finley, who now stood over him at his desk. “It’s what’s best for us both.”


Finley happily went off on his own to explore the forests. He remembered they had been deemed cursed and forbidden, but he never could have imagined this was the reason!
He climbed on some rocks overlooking a quiet pond to sort out what he was going to do first.
“God, there’s nothing to do here either,” he remarked as he looked around. “It’s so beautiful, though. I can see why someone would camp here!”
He took out a half of a sandwich and bit into it, crumbs splashing down into the water. “I bet mothing has chamged here,” he muttered with a mouthful of chicken.
While he went over some files, he noticed a gleam from down below in the pond. He would have decided it was a simple trick of the water if he hadn’t noticed the pulsing light.
“Now, now,” he whispered, eagerly reaching into the water to pull out… a rock.
“Oh, it’s a stone,” he muttered, holding it in his hands. He had a feel that it was powerful, yet he couldn’t understand why. For now, at least, he decided to pocket it. “Cool.”
And now he decided to get to work, although he liked that he found a glowing rock as a paperweight.
“Silas and Ary were said to have buried things around this region,” he reminded himself, “but where?”
The rock trembled in his pocket, making him jump. As he hurriedly pulled it out of his pocket, he saw that it was red.
“Hm?” He turned it around in his palm, putting it up to the sky to see it. “Interesting… You’re definitely a relic, aren’t you?”
To his surprise, it flickered, as if it were answering.
“Huh. Can you tell me where to go?” he asked it, not expecting an answer.
It began to rumble in his palm almost instantly. It was a faint sensation, and he would have to be directly touching the rock to feel it. He stepped in a different direction, and it stopped. He took a step back, and it began again.
He pulled out his communication system, a small, weathered portable video comms system. He wasted no time dialing Moone, loving the fact that he was likely wasting his time.
Moone picked up, glaring idly at his papers. “I hope you found something worthy of a call. These things are damn expensive to start up, so you better not hang up either.”
“I found a rock,” Finley said, holding it up to the device’s camera. “It seems to be leading me somewhere.”
“Is that so? I can’t really see the thing, but I expect you to make a sketch of it before you depart. But, wherever it’s guiding you, will you take me there? — Over the comms, of course.”
Finley grabbed the rock and strapped the camera to his wrist. “It’s beautiful out here, isn’t it? You can see it, right?”
“I can, and it is very beautiful. Perhaps I should garden out there?”
“Can I come with you?”
Moone chuckled. “Only if you bring me back a relic.”
Finley groaned, touching the center of the rock. It seemed to be tickled by the touch, a ripple of activity shooting through it. “Maybe this thing is a relic, you know. It seems alive.”
“It’s not a normal rock, for sure.”
Finley walked along through the bushes and trees of the forest. Everything was so vibrant that even Moone seemed impressed.
There was a creek along the way, where the light shone through the trees and shimmered on the rocks. The stone, which had formerly only hummed quietly, now pulsed in his hand.
“Hey, I think something’s going on here.”
Moone perked up with interest, hiding it under a scorning look. “Oh? Is your little pebble friend telling you something?”
He nodded. “It’s moving again.”
“Then follow it. I want to see.”
He looked up, only to see a figure in the distance.
The young man stared, standing still behind the rock. The necklace, snugly housing the stone, pulsed a bright green.
“I was afraid of losing this,” he whispered hoarsely, as if he hadn’t spoken in quite some time. “Thank you for returning it…”
“Uh… what is it?” Finley said, the call with Moone still muted. “It seems special.”
“It is… it’s very….” The guy trailed off as he clasped his hands over the necklace. He turned, slowly, to look at the intruder. “It’s important to me.”
“Does it do something?”
He nodded. “Yes, but… you should go. Now.”
Finley checked the communicator. A text from Moone’ read, “get his info! don’t leave.” 
Finley backed up towards the door a little. “Wait, who are you? Do you live here?”
“I do.” The man looked at Finley in silence.
“I-I’m investigating relics, can you tell me more about this place?”
“Why?” He clutched the necklace again. “They aren’t yours, so why would you go look for them…?”
“They’re not yours, either are they? …Are they?”
The man narrowed his eyes a bit before giving up and sighing. “They were his… he found them first… and I always protect them… at least the ones he was kind enough to… t-to…”
Finley frowned, looking at his communicator. Moone was, no doubt, listening in and grading his performance. It was his first real field mission, and he was stuck with a shut-in.
“Press him some more, he sounds as if he wants to tell a story,” Moone typed. 
“Um… sir,” Finley said. “Who are you talking about?”
The young man sighed, blankly looking up to the ceiling. “A man. Who was… gone a long time ago. And who I never want to speak of again?” His raspy voice turned airy, full of sadness and maybe even anger. A whispery, sob-like sigh escaped after it. “I don’t talk about him, but… he was special, important to me…!”
Finley nodded, backing up towards the door again. “Do you…want to talk about it…?”
He sighed. “I do. I-I do…” he looked towards the windows. “I’m just…” He looked back at Finley, then at the ground. “Do you know me?”
Finley’s eyes widened a bit. “Um… am I supposed to?”
“My name, do you know it? I…”
The communicator buzzed. Moone had forcibly unmuted it from his end. “Mr. Harring? Can you hear me now?”
“Y-Yeah! I can hear you.” Finley looked up at the stranger, who seemed entranced by the box.
The stranger held out his hands. “Can I see that?”
Finley warily handed it to him, and he immediately took it. A candle was lit, and now Finley could see the stranger better.
He had shoulder-length, reddish-brown hair that seemed to glow and absorb the candlelight. His eyes faded from a bright yellow to a lighter brown. His skin, somewhat tan, was scarred and scratched.
It reminded Finley of something…
The stranger put the communicator on a shelf. “Hello, box guy?”
“Ah— hello! If you don’t mind — I’m assuming you have this thing in a stable location now — May you turn on the video?”
Finley stepped forward and flipped the switch. Within moments, the device emitted a sharp beep as the screen’s blurry picture loaded in.
“It’ll get better. Just give it a minute or two, and you’ll see my colleague.”
“You have another person with you? — Oh, I…I suppose that’s what the voice was, wasn’t it?”
“Mhm… but, may I ask your name again?”
“Um…” He looked visibly nervous. “I’ll tell you if you tell me why you’re here.”
“Fair enough,” Finley said, handing him the file folder.
The stranger took the thing in his hands, looking through the files. He giggled at most of it, which Finley thought was strange, up until he got to the pictures.
His eyes narrowed just a bit, only visible because of the candlelight’s sharp shadow. “Why are you investigating Ary?”
“I have no idea. But, if I had to guess, someone reported it, and now I’m just here to make sure it’s not true.”
“It’s a sad, sad story, but I can tell you, it’s a real one. I know it very, extremely well.”
The communicator beeped and startled both of them. The stranger dropped the papers on the floor; only a single photograph remained in his hand.
“Ah, excuse my delay,” Moone chimed in, adjusting his camera to remain in the communicator frame. “The connection is absolutely terrible! But, were you discussing something?”
“I showed this man the documents! He wants to tell us more about the events.”
Moone nodded. “Usually I wouldn’t condone letting citizens into our business, but I suppose this was an outlying circumstance… Could you tell us more sir? And step into view, if you would.”
The stranger pulled up a chair, which was rusty and creaked when folded down, and sat in front of the camera. “Is this right?”
Moone pulled out a notepad and a very fancy four-color pen. “Very good. Now, may you state some facts? Start with your name and purpose to this investigation.”
“Um… wait. I have a question before w-we begin…”
Moone looked up. “Oh. Go ahead.”
The stranger looked down at his hands, which gripped the bottom of the seat. “Will you be in contact? With Silas, I mean?”
“I… suppose, if it comes to that? Do you know him?”
He held his breath for a moment, looking up at the camera determinedly. “…My name… is Ary, Ary Lauftman. I’m currently the only phoenix of the world. I can tell you so many things, I want to, I do! But…” his eyes grew wider, shone brightly with hope as he spoke. But then, his face grew into a frown, the brightness of his face dying off. “I haven’t heard from him in years. But, maybe…”
Moone nodded, his brows lowered in concentration. “We don’t need him right now. I’ll find him for you, but first, tell me everything.”
Ary nodded, thinking of something to say. “I don’t know what to tell you, I-I mean… I suppose you’re after relics, so, would the Wolf stories be alright?”
Finley nodded, crouching on the floor, head leaning against the shelf. “Whatever you’re comfortable with. No more than that, I promise.”
Moone tilted his head a bit. “Well, I’d prefer if you got a little uncomfortable, personally… it’s better for the quality of the— you know what, never mind.”
Ary gave off an apathetic look. “Everything is uncomfortable. But I will indulge you.”
He shifted in the chair, leaning back to rest his elbows on the arms of the chair. 
“Silas, he found me a long time ago. We were the same age, then, but I was struggling, horribly. He saw me then — I got into a fight with an animal over some old animal carcass and lost — and I was bleeding, collapsed on the trail into town. I wasn’t from there, but I knew it well enough.”
“Silas, he… um… was a sort of play-adventurer, you know? Like kids are — but he was really, really smart, and we got out of every mishap we encountered. I’m sure that’s why he was so good at his job when he got older.”
“What happened between then? This childhood adventure story and becoming a monster?” Finley asked, 
Ary shook his head, looking away. “He wasn’t a monster. The monster feasted off of his mind, inside him…” he put his hands over his face, trying to sit still in the chair. “It was terrifying to see… I just wanted to help… I-I…”
Moone nodded. “You can continue when you’re ready, unless you need a break?”
Finley stood up. “Moone, can I do this one,” he whispered into the mic. “I think I can help more than you can.”
Moone sharply looked up. “More than…!”
Finley laughed. “Hey, I’m just stating the facts.”
“Fine. But make sure you get something.”
“I will.”
“Oh, and you’re paying for this comm use bill that comes into the office. Just a heads up.” With that, Moone disconnected.
“He’s gone now?” Ary said, looking up. “I thought he wanted to talk.”
Finley moved him over to the floor. “It’s just me now, just to make you feel more comfortable.”
“Oh. I see.” Ary sat cross legged, red hair falling over his shoulders. “Can I tell you a story, then?”

Wolf Trial
:: chapter 2
          Silas decided, long ago, that he would take care of the boy he met when he was younger. Even if it meant destroying both of their lives.
Immortality was achievable, but it came at the highest risk; you were forever young, yet isolated and unwanted and unneeded. You were valuable, yet tainted by the lack of the soul you gave away. In time, the human mind fell apart, reasoning abandoned, and you did things you would never do.
Many were in prison, locked away somewhere forgotten for ages. They were underground, buried under the soil, cracking under pressure. Silas has uncovered some of them and discovered that the majority were heavily remorseful, wanting to die in the pits he saved them from.
Silas gained a new perspective from the lost members of society. He quickly did away with all the relics and scrolls that granted the power. Many valuable treasures were lost, but, perhaps, many were saved.
He granted Ary, the boy he’d sworn to protect, with the last immortal relic he knew of. He gave another friend a vast, endless library in which to lose herself in, watching her smile and gasp every time she uncovered a new place. 
He decided then that he would keep them both safe, yet there was only one true way to do so.

In his hands, Silas held a shard of a monster relic with the imprint of a wolf. He kept all the pieces of this relic, which he named the ‘Rainbow Relic’, as it granted a unique power. This relic would allow a shapeshifter to exist: every power was that of a creature from tales and myths.
Silas held the wolf shard and carefully buried the rest across the patch of land in which he originally destroyed the relic.. Not wanting anyone to uncover even the wolf shard, he swallowed it on the spot and ran off.
Three months later, he began to know and train the wolf part of him. It listened to directions well, and learned to submit its feral mind to Silas’s. He knew that perfect harmony between his halves would help, but the wolf would only go so far.
Ary often watched these battles between Silas and his wolf-self. Oftentimes Silas would try to keep it still, and the wolf would bear its fangs and bite its own arm. It would thrash wildly, throwing itself against rocks and the ground before finally landing in the lake. Ary would fish out one tired and torn Silas, who would, every time, ask for some bandages and a nice meal.
The wolf half was hurt by the Stone of Tears that Silas discovered alongside the relics. During training, he would wear it around his neck to prevent frustration from becoming the Wolf. It worked well enough. 
“Silas,” said Ary, one day while he was bandaging the self-inflicted wounds. “How much longer do you think you can stand this?”
Silas looked straight ahead at the makeshift campfire that crackled quietly. He said nothing, for he could only think of one thing…
“I know you want to say, ‘Oh, just a while longer, Ary,’ or, ‘just a little more…’ but…”
Silas looked at Ary, who was carefully running his thumb over one of the first scars.
“Every time I see Wolf, he looks so angry, and you know he won’t…” Ary looked at the ground. “You know he won’t listen! He’s stubborn and a bully — not just to you, but also to me…”
“How?” Silas asked, his voice hushed to not overpower Ary’s soft whisper.
“It hurts too much to have to fish you out of a dirty pond… The only way to see you is by your blood reaching the top, don’t you know? I dig through so much, hoping to find you…”
Silas grimaced. “But one day you… won’t?”
Ary nodded, standing up to go over towards the edge of their camp spot. The grass around him swayed softly, grazing over his legs with delicate, comforting care. “This can never end well.”
Silas felt deep frustration, unconsciously gripping at the grass on the ground. The bandages on his hand roughly brushed against it. 
He clasped his fist together tightly, trying to hold both parts of him together. “And what will you do if it does?”
Ary shook his head. “It won’t. It just won’t.”
“You don’t understand, I—“
“I don’t understand? I don’t?” Ary cried out at last, stomping over. “I watch every day I can stand to watch this stupid…circus of pain you build for yourself —“
Silas gripped at the front of the collar of his shirt, a slight growl coming on. But he would not allow Wolf to come here. “Ary…”
“What?” Ary yelled, trying his best not to cry. He always did, and then Silas would turn away and simply let him. He hated it, hated it so much, but all he could do was cry about it.
“I want… what’s best for you…”
Ary nervously clutched at his sides. “You want what you want — if you wanted what’s best for me you’d have asked me.”
Silas sighed. “I only want to protect you… protect us…”
Ary turned away again, covering his face as he crouched down to the ground. Silas sat down beside him.
“This is a mess. I-I’m sorry,” Silas said, carefully inching a hand to his friend’s waist. “I promise I just want—“
“I know. I…” Ary whispered through sobs, eventually letting himself be hugged by Silas. He fell heavily against his side. Silas held him tight as he grabbed the Tear Stone from around his neck and slipped it over his own.
Wolf was silent for a moment, and they both silently listened to the countryside in peace.

Ary, through a bout of dreadful trial and error in his life, began to believe that his purpose was to keep Silas safe. Silas was so fragile, in his eyes, that he sometimes felt as if he could reach out and pick up a shard of him. 
After he willed himself to stop crying, then, he fixed up the hastily-done bandaging. Silas whispered things to himself, and, for once, Ary didn’t feel the need to listen. He simply sighed shakily, pausing if needed, and continued.
He felt so strongly the need to apologize, but couldn’t tell for what. 
“Silas,” he whispered, leaning towards him a bit.
Silas looked up, meeting Ary’s gaze.
Ary glanced away. “Will you train again tomorrow? If so, I’d like to wrap this up a little more.”
“No. I think we’ll go to town instead.”
Ary looked up. “To town? But—“
“I’ll wear your necklace. It’ll be safe.” Silas tugged gently at the pendant.
Ary nodded. He had intended to say something, at least give some kind of warning, but he could think of nothing. Nothing helpful.
He finished cleaning and bandaging the left arm, and moved onto taking old, chewed bandages off the other. His hands trembled as he took the fabric in his hands.
“I won’t let this happen again,” Silas said in a hushed voice.
Ary opened his mouth, but closed it and nodded. 
“I… I hope so,” he said back. He paused for a moment. “But… I understand that Wolf is a part of you. And I want you to succeed.”
“You’re not happy like this,” Silas said, wincing as he stuck out his other arm to grab Ary’s. “I can give this up if you want. If I eat the Stone then the Wolf will be gone.”
“I know. But is that what you want? Maybe you can make something work?”
Silas shook his head, chuckling. “The wolf is like a wild animal. He doesn’t exactly want to listen, does he?” 
He winced as Ary ripped off the rest of the bandage. A quiet growl from his throat reminded Ary of the werewolf inside of his soul.
“I wish you hadn’t chosen a wolf,” Ary muttered.
“Oh, yeah?”
Ary could feel a deeper meaning to his words. He looked up at Silas — he had a very fixated gaze on Ary, but it was very soft. He had seen the way the wolf looked at him, with strong, piercing eyes. It always scared him, even though he knew that the wolf would never hurt him physically. Silas loved him in earnest, and never fought him, and always comforted him.
“No.” Ary picked up a rag out of the water bucket and pressed it firmly against Silas’s wound — making him hiss from the slight pain. “I would have liked it if you were you.”
Silas nodded. “I would have as well, but I can’t change this decision. And you don’t want to kill the wolf, so I won’t take the Stone.”
“Right…” Ary gently patted away the blood that seeped out of the wound. “But, for now, may you at least let these heal before you go at it with the beast again?”
Silas nodded.
Ary cleaned it once more, put the ointment on, and then slowly bandaged the arm back up. 
“There you are,” he said, smiling. 
“Thank you,” Silas said, grabbing onto Ary’s arm. He took his hand and helped him up.
“I’ll go dump this,” Silas said, grabbing the bucket full of tainted water. “Will you set up for bed?”
“Of course, Silas,” Ary said, dusting off his legs.
Silas went off, leaving the necklace that belongs to Ary with its owner. He held it out in his palms, running his thumb across the surface. Inside held the Stone of Tears, which Ary kept reminding himself was what protected Silas. And it was his.
In a way, by giving the trinket to him, Ary helped Silas by giving him his one possession that could fend off the fury of the Wolf. Ary felt in his heart that Silas was so pure, and this wolf would tear him up and shatter his fragile, glass heart to pieces.
As he felt a tear drip down to his knee, he abruptly threw the necklace over his head and wiped his eyes. Thoughts like those were dangerous and had to wait.
Ary pulled out both of the blankets and set them aside to look for the tent. As he felt around in the baskets for the sleek material it was made of, the ground shifted ever so slightly below him.
As he put a hand to the ground to dig, he felt the mystery item pierce his skin. He hissed as he retracted his hand, staggering to his feet. On the ground was a beautiful blue shard of something, adorned with the picture of a bird — perhaps a phoenix.
He picked it up and hastily stuffed it in the necklace with the Stone.
In the mornings Silas was less affected. Whether it was from a lack of sleep or just a general weakness to the sun was a matter of debate. Nonetheless, Ary felt safer sleeping longer, leaving Silas to plan their day. 
Silas sat in the field, writing a list on a scrap of paper. He felt the wolf lurch around inside him, yet it was uneasy from the day’s sunlight. He had let it free during sunny hunting days, but it soon retreated from the sun that burnt through to its soul. Ary had to learn to treat burn wounds that day.
“Silas,” said a drowsy Ary, stumbling out of the makeshift tent they used. “You’re awake.”
Silas set down his list. “As are you…You’re not much of a morning person.”
Ary nodded, laughing uneasily. “I know, but I couldn’t sleep today.” He sat directly next to Silas, partially leaning on him. “I think it’s because of this.”
Silas’ eyes widened as Ary took out the tiny sapphire-hued  shard that Ary held. “It’s a shard…”
Ary nodded solemnly. “I know. This is a phoenix, right? Like a shard of eternal life?”
Silas takes it and holds up the phoenix-printed side.“I’m assuming you know the reference to the mythical bird?”
Ary nods, touching the smooth surface of the stony shard.
“It grants life, perhaps eternal life, as you call it, but it will force you through unimaginable pain and suffering to achieve it.” He turns over to the other side, which is pure black. “For you to live forever, you must first die a terrible, mortal death.”
Ary closes Silas’ hands around the stone. “Then you’ll keep it, won’t you?”
“Hm? Why me?”
“I’m worried about the wolf… perhaps if you were immortal you would—“
Silas shakes his head pulling at the compartment of Ary’s necklace. “No, this is not for me. The wolf will not let me die, nor kill me.”
Silas put a reassuring hand on his companion’s shoulder. “If the wolf we’re to kill me, he would be killing himself along with me. For all of his rash decisions, I can feel him deliberately tapping into my mind.”
Ary brushes off his hand, forcing a reassuring look. “I know, but…why would you rather I have it?”
“You are alone, at least, in the sense of what’s going on in your head. You have only a human mind and instinct.” He brushes back Ary’s hair, resting his hand on the reddening skin of Ary’s face. “I want to protect you, even if it comes to…”
Ary nodded. “I know.”
“Do you?” Silas said, smiling encouragingly.
“I do. Or I hope to, if I’m wrong,” Ary said, putting his arms around Silas’ neck. “I know you want to protect us, and I want to support you, too.”
Silas sighed, relieved. “I promise, I’ll find a way to fix all of this. I promise.”
He let go of Ary, who got up and brushed himself off. They both had determined here, whether they knew or not, that they would make the best of their days, and fear their nights. 
The gift that Silas had returned to Ary meant more than protection. Silas knew, although he hoped for a different future, that Ary would be slain by him.
Ary felt the second meaning deeper than the happier sentiment. But, nonetheless, he was happy to be with Silas for the time being.

The day went by slowly, as Ary wanted it to happen.
Silas worked all day sketching out creatures and reading books, and Ary lazily rested against his shoulder. Every so often, Ary would talk passionately about the old relics from the past and how beautiful they were. And Silas would agree, but warn of their danger.
“The vases were beautiful, weren’t they? I only wish we could’ve taken one home!”
Silas chuckled. “They sometimes house demons, though. Can’t imagine it would be very pretty all smashed up.”
“But what if we filled them with water? And grew a mini garden full of marigolds?”
Silas put his pencil to his chin, thinking. “I mean, perhaps  we could commission a replica? But where would you keep it?”
Ary looked up. “We can’t bring it around with us?”
“A porcelain vase? I mean… are you carrying it?”
“Oh.” Ary hadn’t thought past his own desires, as he often did. Silas knew the trait well, and was quick to ground his companion back to reality. 
“You hadn’t thought of that?” Silas said predictively.
Ary scoffed playfully. “I thought more than you.”
Silas smirked and pulled a wild clover from the patch and tossed it in Ary’s face.
He laughed as Ary swept back his hair in surprise. “I’m sorry, I hadn’t.”
Ary squinted, grinning mischievously. “Of course you hadn’t.”
The sunset was beautiful that night, Ary reaching up as if he could touch it. Silas had long retreated off into the distance, not wanting to upset his companion.
With his other hand, Ary clutched the necklace that held his treasures. 

Silas and Ary sat together by the water of a small pond. Ary was bathing, his head leaning on the rocks by where Silas sat, stoically scribbling in his notebook. The night was quiet enough where Silas was safe; as an extension, Ary felt safe, too.
Ary smiled as he put his head back in the water, feeling the small, gentle current he made rush over his face. He liked the embrace of the water, yet tried not to get too carried away with swimming.
Silas watched him from above, almost envying him for his ability. It was as if Ary had a past life as a beautiful merperson…
Ary emerged suddenly, taking Silas by surprise with the splash.
“Silas, why don’t you come in too?” Ary asked, crawling up on the rock where his towel lied. “It’s nice.”
“I’d rather not, perhaps later?”
“You don’t want to bathe?”
“It’s not that… It’s that I can’t swim. And I’d really rather not drown because of a panicked wolf.”
Ary smiled a bit, resting his hands on Silas’s shoulder, slowly moving down to his wrist to hold hands. “I can teach you, if you’d like. I bet I could at least—“
Silas gently removed Silas’ hands. “I can’t. I forgot that I’m busy, too.”
Ary peered down at the notebook. “Doing…?”
“Making a list of every relic I’ve ever buried.”
“Are you counting the Wolf and the Phoenix?”
Silas paused, looking over at Ary. He also, more hastily, glanced at the necklace housing the important relics. 
“No.” He crossed out a word.
Ary stood up and sighed, looking out at the setting sun. “It’s getting late. Are you sure you don’t want to take a bath?”
“I’ll be fine, Ary.” Silas got up, notebook tucked under his arm, and walked off to the camp.
Ary slunk back into the water, sighing heavily. He wanted to spend time with Silas, as he used to before. But the wolf was making him impatient, and Silas was becoming less of who he was.
Ary glanced at a small frog that was croaking noisily in the grass. He leaned against the rocks, and when it did not hop away, spoke to it. 
“Do you think he knows I love him still? Even despite all of this?” Ary moved his hair out of his face, tucking the wet strands behind his ear. “When we were younger, still just kids, we would explore everywhere… do everything that we could…. And yet, no matter what I could do or change in the past, nothing could have stopped him.”
He picked up a piece of grass that had floated over to him. He held it in the air, against the light of the sun, to see the colorful droplet that fell on his bare chest.
He idly tore it in half. “I loved him then, in a way. I always walked behind him, just wanted to see where he would bring us next.” He dropped the pieces, lowering himself deeper into the water. “I don’t think I would have stopped him,” he said bitterly. “I was so…stupidly in love that I never saw the consequences.”
The frog, unfazed by the monologue given to it, happily hopped into the water. Ary watched as it did, giving a faint smile as he watched it go.
“Ary?” said Silas, who was far off at the campsite setting things up for bed. “Are you coming?”
Ary didn’t answer. Instead, he rolled over in the water, letting himself drift off into the deeper parts of the pond. Perhaps he wanted Silas to come after him, drag him back to camp annoyed by his companion’s silence. He would tell him all these things, and make Silas kiss him to ease his anxieties. 
His eyes, staring blankly at the sky, began to well with more tears at the thought. “This…is torturous,” he uttered to himself.
He sat up, letting himself fall under the water for a while before rising back up. Silas was there, as he thought he would be.
“Didn’t you hear me calling?” asked Silas, helping Ary out of the water. He wrapped the towel around his body, hurrying to dry him off.
“I did,” Ary replied, flatly.
“And you didn’t come?”
“No.” Ary shook out his hair, which draped over his face. 
Silas was visibly more annoyed, especially with the sun setting. “Why not?”
“I had to think about some things. About the past, at least.”
Silas said nothing, yet Ary could feel Silas growing worried.
“I thought about how you were always so nice, wanting the best for me, but still just…letting me help you.” He looked up into Silas’s eyes, resting his hands on his shoulders for easy hug access. “I fell in love with you, and you alone became my family.”
“…I know.” Silas whispered, taking a step back to put the towel to the side and hand Ary some of his clothes: a Silas-sized sweater, and some of Ary’s shorts. “I just want—“
“You want to protect us, I know, I know. But why like this? Why did you do it?” Ary had grown louder, more agitated as the tears from the water re-emerged. “I should have… I-I…”
“You should have what?” Silas wiped away the tears with his thumb, his face becoming a mirror of Ary’s misery.
Ary turned away, hastily throwing the sweater on him and putting on the shorts. Then he sat, unable to stand up any longer as he succumbed to his tears.
Silas rushed over to him, hugging him tight. “Ary, please believe me, I’m so sorry,” he whispered, kissing at his jawline. “Please—“
“No,” Ary cried, shoving him away. His face was hot, and his tears stung. He stood, clutching his waist, as he looked back at Silas. “I can’t…I…I-I just don’t know what to do.” He wiped his face with his sleeve, his mind becoming clouded with heat. “I want to believe you, I promise, but… this is your mess that you put on me! Of course I would let you, of course I would have told you everything, I—“
Silas grabbed Ary by the arms. “Calm down. You’ll attract the animals,” he said, trying to ease him into a hug.
Instead, Ary shoved him. “What animal? What animal is worse than you?”
Silas scowled at the remark, feeling a familiar presence. “Don’t start this, Ary. We can just go to bed, and then everything will be fine.”
“But it won’t! Nothing will ever be fine.”
“Ary… I can’t do this with you, not right now,” Silas said, gripping Ary’s arms twice as hard. “I want to make everything better again, I just need time, and then…”
Ary wiped his tears away again. “And then what? What do we have after this? A scarred scientist and his…sad, s-stupid little…”
Silas repressed the wolf, finally hugging Ary as tight as he could manage. “Please, please don’t say those things about yourself.”
Silas broke the hug to pull Ary’s legs under his lap, sitting sideways. “I can’t guarantee that things can return to normal, but I know everything will be alright, okay?” Silas took an end of the towel and gently brushed away the moisture. “I want you to be with me, and you have to believe that it’s not in my best interest to drive you away.”
“I know,” Ary uttered weakly, his voice trembling as more tears fell. He turned his head into Silas’ chest, snuggling his face into the fabric. “I know.”
Silas tried to gather words to say, something that could provide at least a little comfort. But, at least with the wolf waiting to emerge, there was nothing to say.
“I’m sorry,” Silas sobbed, trying to stand up. “I just—“
“I should be sorry,” Silas said, staring off into the direction of the pond. “I forced all of this on you. I didn’t even tell you… did I?”
“You told me after we found it,” Ary said, sniveling. “I was even angry then… but then you…” Ary looked away, wiping his eyes again.
A moment of silence passed by the two of them. “Ary, I—“
Ary shook his head, standing fully. He took Silas’s arm and leaned against it. “I just need to sleep.”
“O-Ok,” Silas said, slowly leading them to bed. “I set everything up just like you wanted,” he whispered, planting a kiss on his forehead.
Their camp-base was only a short ways away. It was half set-up, but otherwise ready to rest in. Ary, as he said he would, laid himself down on the mat that served as their bed and covered himself with a blanket.
He looked up at Silas, who was trying his best not to glance back at him. He was hard at work, trying to bury his emotions under piles and piles of work to do. Something about it made Ary’s heart ache.
“Silas,” Ary called, sitting up a bit. “Can you come here?”
Silas did as he was asked, anxiously sitting next to Ary. “Is something wrong?”
Ary ran his hand down Silas’s arm. “No, I just… want you next to me.”
“I see,” he said, taking off his jacket. “For the night?”
Ary paused hesitantly, then nodded. Silas laid down next to him, anxiously awaiting the next topic of conversation.
But, to his surprise, it wasn’t talk, but a kiss that Ary was after. It was gentle and delicate, but delivered the desperate passion that Ary felt for Silas. Ary had wrapped his arms around Silas’s neck, leading Silas to grab his waist.
“Mm… Ary, no,” Silas, muttered, breaking their kiss.
Ary looked up at Silas. He looked a great degree more content. “No?”
“I can’t. Not this, at least.”
Ary looked away. “I know. But…I love you, you know,” he said, adjusting his position on the mat as Silas retracted his hands.
Silas chuckled. “That, I do.”
Ary cuddled against Silas, only desiring to be close to someone instead of being alone. “Do you?”
Silas wrapped an arm around him. “Of course, especially because I love you too.”
Ary, when cuddled up like this, loved the warmth. He reveled silently in the fact that, only for the moment, they had managed to contain the wolf. Perhaps it was afraid of softer moments like this.

Ary woke up a little while longer to the smell of fresh cooking. Silas had evidently finished setting up their camp in the night as he slept. 
“Good morning,” Ary said, leaning on him. He sat on a blanket as Silas handed him some food. “Did you sleep any?”
“No,” Silas replied, hugging him. “I’ve been restless all night. I think I’m becoming nocturnal?”
“Hm, good for you.” Ary stared up at him, watching as he yawned.
“I went to the pond, too.” Silas sat next to him, making himself a bowl. “There’s so many frogs and bugs, so much noise!”
Ary glanced up. “Do you think we could maybe… go set up to eat out there?”
Silas nodded, picking up the pot of boiled vegetables and putting some in a more portable container. Ary took the blanket.
“Silas, how come there’s no meat this time? I would have figured that you wanted to eat meat, huh?”
Silas glanced in another direction, his fingers anxiously tapping at the container. “I tried. But I had another…moment.”
Ary stopped. “What? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to make you upset, Ary,” Silas said, easing Ary into moving forward again. “You get so upset with me…”
Ary said nothing. He only looked at Silas’s face, noticing a small scratch. He reached up and ran his thumb over it. “What happened when the wolf showed?”
“I don’t know, really,” he said, gradually becoming more stoic since the previous night. “I tried to sleep, but it demanded my attention, almost as if it were threatening you. I went to work, and it helped. But after that, I couldn’t tell you.”
Silas sat Ary down by the pond. Ary’s clothes and the towel were forgotten overnight, and lay just as they were placed. Ary put them in Silas’s bag.
The pair took a break to eat, Silas not wanting Ary to worry, and Ary trying to repress his true feelings. It made for a brief silence, but not one that was unwanted.
The sun had just risen, but it was hidden behind the clouds. Ary marveled at the way the scene shimmered in the ripples of the pond. He could see their warbled reflections too, staring at Silas through the water.
“You seem to like it out here,” Silas said, chuckling. “I wanted to apologize for bringing you here, but you just always seem like you’d rather be here than anywhere else.”
“I wanted to be with you!” Ary said, smiling back. “Anywhere you are, I want to be there too.”
Silas grinned, but it faded once he saw his companion’s smile begin to fade as well. “But do you like being here, yourself?”
Ary sighed furtively, turning away. “I like it, really.” He smiled again, scooting over to lean against Silas.
“You can leave, if you want, you know. No one is keeping you here if you’re miserable.”
“If I wanted to go, I would go.”
“I know, but…” Silas trailed off, absentmindedly leaning his head into Ary’s hair. He knew how much Ary wanted to be here, no matter how he felt. He actually loved him, and Silas could feel that it was a much more devoted love than he could ever imagine.
Ary, tired of talking in circles, took off his sweater. “I’m going to swim again.”
“Can you…“ Silas reached out to touch him, grabbing him by the hand. “I want to try to swim too.”
Ary’s stern expression loosened. “Oh, alright… Ok! I can show you.”
“Thank you, lovely.”
Ary blushed, caught off guard by the name. “Lov…? Or…. No problem!”
Silas grinned and took off his jacket and T-shirt. “I haven’t had the time to learn more than needed to survive,” Silas said, getting out of the rest of his clothes and folding them neatly.
Ary touched a strange patch of skin on the back of his shoulders. “Hang on, Silas.”
“Huh? Is something wrong?”
Ary brought his hands up Silas’s neck. The hairs were longer and abundant at the back of his head, but tapered away down his spine. They felt soft, but the skin underneath, shocked by the sudden growth, was raw and bleeding.
“You have a lot of hair,” Ary said, running his thumb over the area. “Does it hurt when I do this?”
“A-A little? But what’s wrong with it?” 
“You’re bleeding from here, but it’s not serious. I think I can wash it off in the pond, though. Just so I can see it better.”
He helped Silas into the spot he sat at last night, thinking of him. He brought a cup from their impromptu picnic to the pond and cleaned it out. He slowly poured a cupful of water onto his shoulders, brushing the area of skin with his fingers.
“It’s cold,” Silas said, grimacing as his grip on the rocks tightened.
Ary giggled. “If you want to swim with me, you can spare a moment for this.”
Finally, when the wound was clean, Ary bid him to let go of the rocks. He climbed in the water, letting Silas grab him as he dropped in fully. “Do you feel alright?”
“I feel a little better, although I didn’t feel anything wrong before,” he said, touching the bristling hairs that he could reach. “I think it’s fur, though, or some fashion of it.”
Ary put his hands on the back of Silas’s neck. “Will it keep spreading? It wasn’t there last night.”
“I have no idea.”
Ary sighed, putting his head to Silas’ chest. “The wolf is trying to come through.” He ran his hands across the scratches and raw skin, moving up to cup his hands to his jaw. “Will you be able to stop it?”
Silas pulled Ary off of him. “I won’t know until the time comes. Can we just enjoy the smaller moments now? Just for today, at least?”
Ary nodded, taking Silas’s hand to lead him out in the deeper water. “Let’s focus on swimming lessons then.”
Silas chuckled, shakily holding onto his companion’s shoulder and waist. “Oh. Right.”


Wolf Trial
:: chapter 3