Marshall Whitley loaded one last cartridge into his revolver through the side gate. The Single Action Army had served him well over the years, being his only constant companion the whole time he had been chasing Artix's gang. And if this lead was as good as he reckoned, Whitley would have to make sure he drew it first. He didn't like the thought, but he knew Artix and his band better than anyone, and they were not the type of man who went quietly. He knew Artix wasn't the man's name, but his real name had been forgotten years ago. Only Artix and whatever family he had somewhere knew it. Whitley figured the same was true of a lot of things about the outlaw. He was a cipher with a gun and an eye for gold.
He took the binoculars and scanned over the valley below. It was still and silent, but this was where his contact's directions lead him. He urged his horse, a stout old palomino, down the slope into the dry valley and continued his search. There, he saw fresh tracks in the dusty rust-colored soil, the tarnished brass of spent cartridges. Whitley knew he was close as he followed the trail, which lead him through a winding path cleared through the dry mid-summer brush.
The path ended some ten or so paces in front of a weather-beaten stone cabin built into a cliff face. To the left of the dusty wooden door was a crude drawing of a skull and cross bones etched onto the red rock in charcoal. This was the place, Whitley took a stiff drink from his canteen and took his horse around behind a patch of thick brush a safe distance away before dismounting. He slipped a thick iron plate down the front of his shirt, an old trick he learned from a bounty hunter, and approached the door.
The place had been abandoned some time before the gang rolled in, having once been a fort. It's past was made obvious as Whitley got closer, seeing the stonework pock-marked by many years' worth of gunfire. The Marshall pried open the door, the neglected iron hinges squealing in protest. He quietly slipped in, leaving the door ajar and keeping his hand close to his holstered gun. If he was going to make it out alive, he would have to be the first on the draw. Whitley thought himself a good shot, but if he wasn't the best shot out of every stinking thug in this den, he was a dead man already.
He stopped and checked his piece, fully loaded... clean and ready. No matter how many shootouts he'd been in, he always made doubly sure his gun wouldn't quit on him. Especially since Handsome Tom nearly took his head off with a buffalo rifle a year or so back. The silence inside the hideout made him uneasy, he could see out of the corner of his eye a recently snuffed oil lantern, still warm to the touch as he passed his hand over the ash-stained glass.
"You're here..." Whitley muttered under his breath as he took slow, methodical steps through the entrance tunnel. The cool, dark hallway leading in reminded him of the time he had to rescue the Burkitts' son from an old silver mine. The hallway opened up into a round room with only a simple wooden table and a chair for decoration, atop the table sat an almost-empty bottle of liquor. Whitley knew in his gut this was where the lookout should have been, and he didn't see any signs that they left in a hurry. Come to think of it, it bothered the Marshall just how quiet everything was.
He ducked into a side room, which turned out to be a makeshift kitchen with an old stove and a cleaver stuck in a wooden cutting board stained from years of use and sporadic at best cleaning. On the counter was a sawed-off side-by-side shotgun with eight tally marks etched into the grip. Whitley took the shotgun and opened up the breech, looking down the chambers. It was unloaded and looked to have been cleaned recently. He set the weapon down and scanned his eyes across the room. Where the hell was everyone? He knew outlaws, and he knew this gang. They were not the type to lay quiet on their own turf, and it couldn't have been an ambush on such short notice. Whitley felt his stomach clinch, whatever was going on, he didn't like it. Sure it was just as possible he showed up while they were asleep or unaware, but he didn't have that kind of luck.
He drew his piece and kept his thumb on the hammer. Silence had a way of making a fella nervous, and he found himself watching every shadow for movement, any movement as he made a sweep of the den. The air reeked of cheap booze and gunpowder as he checked around. There was a reloading bench in one room, which explained the smell of fresh gunpowder.
Finally, he reached a set of cracked stone steps going down when he heard voices. He flattened himself against the wall and listened.
"Still kills me that we broke into that widow's house for just a necklace. I hope you know what you're doin', Art." Whitley tightened his grip on his revolver, he recognized that voice... it was one of Artix's men.
"It's not just a necklace, Bill..." He heard Artix say, "...there's something special about it, got a kind of power in it and I want that power. "
Whitley couldn't believe his stroke of luck, he had caught the whole gang and he had found that Moon Pendant his contact back in town kept mentioning. With the reward money for the gang and bringing that trinket back, Whitley could move somewhere nice and never pick up a gun ever again.
He crept down the stairs slowly, carefully as he continued to eavesdrop.
"What kinda power? Are we talking wishes? Because I can get behind that sorta magic..."
"No, not that..." Artix said in an irritated scoff. "Ever heard those stories about werewolves?"
"You believe that hoodoo, boss?"
Whitley was right around the corner, the thick reinforced wooden frame of the doorway providing ample cover. This was going to be the biggest catch of his career. Whitley didn't come into this looking for fame but he wouldn't object if this brought him some.
" I believe it now..." Artix said. Whitley peeked his head around and saw him standing there holding a bronze chain with a heavy golden talisman in the shape of a crescent moon. The way it shone and sparkled in the light of the lantern set down in the center of the gathering of thieves looked wrong to Whitley. It was like the thing was making its own light, a sort of off-yellow haze. "... Can you feel it?"
As Artix said that, his figure changed in the meagre light and heavy, dancing shadows of the room, his hand gripped the chain tighter, his arm shaking as a low, strained snarl left his lips. Whitley flinched back against the doorway, still watching as he held his gun at the ready. Artix's mole-brown hair started creeping over his wrists, turning a glossy raven black as the muscles in his arms seized up and twitched. Whatever Whitley saw going through the outlaw was flowing through the room and into the others, the men around him falling to their knees, clawing at their clothing as their bodies changed, hair spreading over them in thick patches like the fur of dogs.
Artix bared his teeth, filthy yellow and tapering down into vicious canine fangs, then he tore open his red flannel shirt revealing a thick mat of black fur as his lips and nose turned dark. The sound off bones creaking and cracking into different positions almost made Whitley sick as he watched Artix's jaws force themselves into a canine muzzle, with thin lips and a black nose drawing in heavy breath after breath as the black fur covered his face... a lupine visage with a ghoulish, toothy smile.
His back arched and he ripped the tattered remnants of his shirt off, revealing the furry, powerfully muscled body the arcane power of the amulet had given him. At the end of his fingers were black claws, sharp like knives. Artix kicked off his boots while his gang struggled through their own changes, revealing what looked very much like canine paws, standing up on the balls of his feet as his bones re-sculpted themselves for him to stand comfortably in that position, looking more and more like the hind paws of a wolf.
And Whitley saw, hanging over the top of Artix's jeans, was a shaggy tail growing out and out accompanied with the sound of vertebrae pulling out and into place. As his tail reached his full length, roughly as long as a man's forearm, the other thugs were finishing their own changes. The room was littered with tattered scraps of clothing as the now wolf-men stood up around their pack leader. Their fur was all different colors, gray and brown and even a few gingers.
Whitley backed away from his vantage point, the Marshall had shot a few men and a lot of wolves in his time, but he had never shot a wolf-man. The thought crossed his mind that his .45 revolver wasn't going to stop one of them if it tried to pounce. What he needed was a shotgun, or one of those big-game lever rifles. Then Whitley's mind snapped back to the shotgun in the kitchen, the reloading room. If he got to it and found a handful of shells, he'd stand a chance.
He climbed back upstairs as quickly and quietly as he could and Artix's pointed wolf ears perked up and caught the sound of his boots on the stone steps. "We have a rat in our house, boys." The alpha wolf gang leader said in a voice that was growly, aggressive, hungry. When the Marshall heard him say that, and heard his gang growl in affirmation, he knew he was going to die if he did not act fast. He bolted up the stairs, heart pounding his chest like a native war drum and made his way to the shotgun in the kitchen. As he snatched it up and brought it to the ammunition and reloading room, he saw a grayish blue running towards him. He fired two shots at the wolf-man and sent it dodging to the side, just barely enough room to dash past the thing.
Whitley didn't know if he hit the thing, but he was pretty sure he grazed it due to the yelp it made, he grabbed two hand-loaded 12 gauge shells and slammed them into the chambers of the sawed-off and flipped the breech closed. He still didn't have much of a chance, but he had one and that was the big thing. He heard footsteps, nimble claws scraping over the stone floor and he made his retreat. The Marshall wasn't concerned with making an arrest anymore, that was no longer even a possibility. The absolute best he could do was get the hell out and get a posse to come back, and that was him assuming he could make it back to town. Still, Whitley kept on assuming as he ran for the entrance, he'd gotten out of some crazy shit before but this was the first time he was panicking like this. His hands were shaking as he turned corners, at last he realized what went through a rabbit's head as a hunter's dog nipped at its heels.
He had just reached the entrance when he could feel, could hear one of them closing in on him snarling and panting. Whitley turned and pointed the shotgun at the black wolf-man, the thing that used to be Artix. The wolf just grinned and pounced, a black haze flashing towards him. The thing struck the Marshall in the chest and tackled him, sending his arm up, discharging both barrels into the ceiling with a thunderous flash as the two fell to the floor.
The wolf-man's breath stank as he leered down at the Marshall. The wolf-man's amber-colored eyes stared deep into Whitley's own dark brown eyes. As Artix brushed Whitley's soft cheek with those glossy black claws, the man realized that the look the wolf was giving him wasn't hunger, but rather of possessiveness; a 'I am going to have you to myself' look.
"Don't tell me you're not interested in this." The alpha wolf grinned as he ran his claws through the fur on his chest, keeping the other hand over Whitley's neck with a firm grip. "You'll make a fine packmate, Marshall. It's the least I can do for you finding us..."
Whitley opened his mouth to speak but the wolf-man interrupted him. "And if you refuse, my boys will have plenty to eat tonight." The Marshall struggled impotently under him, no matter what he couldn't take his gaze off those eyes, those deep yellow eyes of his. They were like pools of honey, of liquid gold... he could get lost in them if the circumstances were different. The Marhall felt hot under his clothes, like the heat coming off the wolf-man was flowing into and throughout him.
"Good girl, you're looking at the man when he talks to you." Artix said with a toothy grin. "I think I'll keep you around..." He dug his claws into Whitley's coat, pull it open gently as soft white hairs spread down the Marshall's neck, making his skin tingle and itch as the hairs grew in thicker and spread down his soft brown skin. Already, streaks of soft snowy white were flowing through his dark hair, overtaking the natural color from the roots out to the tip of each hair.
"What the hell are you doing to me?" Whitley moaned, scratching at the fur spreading down his chest as the black wolf-man yanked open his shirt, sending two buttons flying off their threads. It was all over his chest, white like a winter prairie and spreading up his neck and down his arms.
"You're gonna be part of my pack," he said, stroking his claws through the Marshall's hair. "Just relax and enjoy it. This is a gift."
A gift... every word sank into the man's mind, echoing throughout and growing clearer and louder with every echo. His mind was being filled, his own thoughts thrown into a murky jumble. And those yellow eyes were like magnets. He couldn't look away, even knowing what was being done to him.
"As a wolfman?" He said, his voice shaking. Whitley considered himself a brave man, but not anymore.
"Not a man..." Artix said with a lusty groan, watching a pair of swellings peek up from his captive's furry chest, nipples turning black as a pair of what were unmistakably breasts grew out of Whitley's body. It felt wrong, scary... but very good. He bit his lip as Artix groped one of them, having already grown to what the seamstress in town would call a "B cup."
Whitley felt hot all over as his muscles tensed and shifted, his bones ached and he couldn't focus his mind on anything but Artix's eyes and the heady, earthy musk that hovered over him like an aura. It was a virile, masculine scent that stirred unfamiliar feelings in the former Marshall. His waist narrowed down, down as his hips filled out as the fur reached them. His fingertips started to sting like he touched a hot iron as his nails pinched into the shape of claws, growing darker and darker as they pulled out longer and longer.
The wolf licked at Whitley's lips as her... his face pushed out into the growing stub of a muzzle, nose turning up and flattening against his snout as it turned a cool, moist black. His hearing clouded up as his ears crept up higher on his head, growing into canine points. Then, his hearing popped back into stark, hyper-real focus. Every sound around him was louder, clearer. The texture to these sounds was different, more distinct.
He looked down over his body as Artix pulled his trousers down, he was almost completely covered in alabaster fur. It was a pleasantly warming feeling, like every inch of him was wrapped in a warm blanket. "Feels good, doesn't it? Just keep enjoying it girl."
Girl... Whitley blinked, this was not a good thing... but it felt good. Maybe she... he was wrong about this. Artix had become a handsome animal, with a shiny coat and those beautiful eyes were like stars. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad being part of the pack... a she-wolf. The idea became more and more comforting the more it bounced around in his mind. More and more memories of his old life were growing distant, like they were moving backwards in time and fading with age as things do.
A sharp, sudden heat rocketed through his groin and Artix pulled him up in a sitting position, cradling her... him in those powerful arms of his. So warm and safe... yes, she was in good hands, too comfortable to notice more of herself slipping away. Her mind was changing just as surely as her body, new thoughts and ideas creeping through her head like ivy growing up a castle wall. Another sharp flash of pain and a hundred other feelings rocked her body as his manhood forced itself back into her body, the feeling leveling off for just a second before spiking right back up again.
"Atta girl, just let it happen." Artix said, reaching his clawed hand down his waist and fingering the pair of moist, puffy lips that were where his manhood once was. The touch upon her folds was electric, she pitched forward into his chest, gasping and moaning. She blinked once... twice, each time her eyes went from deep brown to harvest gold. So many new sensations and feelings were coming to her, her feminine musk mixing with the smell of her mate... the wagging of her new tail. He reached down and rubbed her paws as they finished growing in, leathery black pads pushing out of the fur, toenails becoming sharp claws perfect for climbing over rough ground.
"How do you feel, honey?" Artix said, and Whitley looked into his eyes with her own, the same brilliant gold color as his.
"Better than I ever felt, Art. Better than I ever felt."
The white she-wolf threw on her denim jacket over the black top holding her modest C-cups in place. Her gun was stashed in a shoulder holster, with a bandolier of cartridges around the waist of her jean skirt. Artix approached her from behind and her ears perked up, she couldn't help but smile at his scent. He put his arms around her from behind, nuzzling the back of her neck.
"How's my alpha female?" He said, his hands straying naughtily to her chest.
"Save it for when we get back with the loot, honey." Whitley said, her tail wagging at the attention nonetheless. The rest of the pack was downstairs loading their guns and sharping their claws. Their pack had become a force of terror throughout the country, helped in no small part by their new addition and her fierce loyalty to the alpha. And indeed, their heist was another in a long line of successes. The storekeep cowering as Whitely and Artix loomed over him, handing the key to the safe like a terrified villager offering tribute to ancient and ruthless gods.
And when they returned and divided up their gains, Artix took her to his private quarters, throwing her onto his bed and crawling on top of her, planting a rough kiss on her chest. They coupled like newlyweds all night, howling and snarling in rapturous pleasure as the magic amulet hung from the doorknob.
Commission for TaluLupus. A young marshall goes after a gang of outlaws who have stolen a priceless artifact. Things go wrong.