Prompt Short Story: Goddamn Dog Smell (Interviews with a Sorceror #2)

Half the world knows about and believes in magic and supernatural stuff, half doesn’t. Some folk’ll deny what’s right in front of their face. I don’t have much time for that idiocy. I know some who love living with the commons – the ones who don’t know about our version of the world. They help them and the commons fawn all over them – “Oh, how do you do it, you’re so amazing, I swooooooon”. Blech. Never could stand that crap. If you hired me, pay me – and a bonus goes a long way towards showing proper appreciation. If you didn’t hire me and I’m doing whatever for my own reasons, stay out of my way unless I ask otherwise, and let me go easy once I’m done. I just can’t be doing with all that “my hero” rubbish. I am what I am, and I made a vow to use it to aid folk where I can. It was part of my entrance fee for being allowed into the training. Especially as a late bloomer, and a poor charity case at that, never mind the rest – black, queer, we covered that already. Anyway, because of that, and my trauma that kickstarted the magic, I had to agree to some rules. Not all sorcerers have to. Was always a fun game to guess who did and who didn’t, and I was usually right. Like anywhere in this fucking world, the closer you are to a rich, cishet, white, abled, neurotypical male – the fewer problems you have.

Good job you don’t mind listening to my tangents. Actually for all I know you don’t – you zipping through my recordings for the juicy bits? I’m gonna be curious what you think, by the time we’re done. You know having me do this whole thing wasn’t exactly my idea. But that’s neither here nor there now, is it? When you’re with folk who know who you are and what you do, it’s easier. No bother about hiding, watching your words, all that stuff. I prefer it. I suppose that’s part of the point of this. I’m betting you’re a curious type, saw something you couldn’t properly explain, and went digging things up best left undug. So they throw you a bone – me – to gnaw on, and tell you to ask whatever you like. Don’t ask me why, it’s beyond my pay grade.

Anyway, anyway. You want a story about how the extra special folk like me interact with the commons that don’t know we exist? I’ve got one of those for you. I’ve got lots of those for you, actually, but here’s one that’ll probably appeal to the fluffy type like yourself.

You know about sorcerers, obviously. Do you know about werewolves? Chances are whatever supernatural thing you can think of exists in some form or another. Werewolves are a thing too.

I mean, if you look at the myths and legends across the world, everyone has shapeshifters. Werewolf types are probably the most common. Something about the primal human instinct, I think, makes for great mythology. Except it’s real. Kind of. Not how you know it from the usual stories – there’s certain people who do a very careful job of ensuring some details get and remain fudged, to help us folk stay safe. Silver? Useless. They aren’t allergic to it or whatever it is you think they are. Also, getting through werewolf hide is a bit like trying to stab through stone with wet paper. Doesn’t work.

Werewolves are folk who chose to give half of themselves over to their goddess, Luna. How much of their religious claptrap is real, I couldn’t tell you, but something in there must be because it keeps working. Their rituals are super secret, so don’t ask. However it works, they do whatever they do, and then they become a werewolf. All they need then, to change, is the right stimulus – with practice, they can switch back and forth easily. Not painlessly, but they don’t feel pain like the rest of us, probably because they’d resist otherwise. So after a while they change at will, but their nature – wolf and human – they intertwine. So a werewolf, in their human shape, still has the speed, strength, senses and instincts of a wolf. And in werewolf form, they keep the intelligence and essential personhood of the human.

Oh, and the supernatural extras they get? One of them is the ability to live a very long time. Oldest I know of got to almost 500 before her heart gave out.

I was travelling through some town, middle of nowhere USA, can’t remember what state, one of those with boringly long roads between tiny towns, nothing but the odd truck stop between them.

Boring, USA was one of those. Big enough to have a community, and shops to get what they needed – albeit it at a more expensive price than the big stores they love so much, the nearest of those was about 100 miles away, at that time anyway. But still small enough they recognised a new person – or rather, I suppose, they didn’t recognise a new person and that’s how they knew you were new. Hah. Wordplay, you’re welcome.

So they had all the basics, and I rode into town in my car, don’t ask me what car, it was years back. Parked up in Main Street, asked the first person I saw about a place to stay, got directed to the B&B. The only place to stay, I was informed. This was apparently a point of pride? I don’t know why. But the place was decent. Someone had bought an old mansion and turned the rooms liveable again. I got curious about the original owner. Library helped me find out it was a guy who’d moved out here to live privately with his harem. So all those rooms were for the men and women he called his husbands and wives. But, they needed stuff like food and whatnot, so he was forced to start building things they needed, and houses for folk to live in, in order to get the stores and all working. 150 years on – they’ve got this town, and I have a decently sized room to stay in. Warm, big, nice view of the town if you like that sort of thing, and privacy – thick walls! They didn’t make this shit out of plasterboard back then. Solid wood and stone, it was! Saved me some energy casting privacy spells. So, there I was. I’d just finished a big job so I was in no hurry, just wandering. Booked me in for a couple of nights, and there I was.

Went down to the restaurant – once the ballroom – to eat, and listened in to what was being said around me. Little of any interest, mostly, but I did get curious about the relatively new (which in a place like this could be a month or ten years) veterinarian. The old one had shut down after the owner had retired off to someplace sunny to die, and people had to take their animals elsewhere – nearest one wasn’t close, either. So when a new family arrived to refurbish and reopen it, they were cautiously pleased.

Now? They talked about these people like flowers grew under their feet as they walked, gracing people with their blessings. Seriously. They were like gods come down to earth, listen to the folk talk!

Now, me? I take that in, and it reads supernatural. So, finished my food and ale – damned good, both – and took myself to bed. Next day, got up for breakfast – also damned good – and went out to find this family of godlike vets.

I mean, it’s not hard to find anyone or anything, I’d seen them in the row of shops down the main street, so I walked over and went in.

And. Yep. Smell hit me right away. Dog.

Not dog like the ones they took in to cure and groom and whatever.

Dog, like werewolf.

One of the things about being my type of sorcerer – not all of us go down this route – is your senses are dialled up. It lets you spot the supernatural wherever it is, and track where it’s been. Useful for my kind of living, but goddamn do I hate the smell those creatures give off. It’s all dog smell and soil and woods and trees and raw meat.

Werewolves also have a pretty good sense of who’s supernatural, and I was greeted real quick by one of the younger ones and invited behind the curtain, so to speak. She took me past various treatment and cage rooms, and to a back office. Asked me nicely to wait for her father.

I said sure, and promised her I wasn’t here for any trouble.

It took a few minutes, but the dad arrived. He looked much like his daughter. Tall, willowy, piercing blue eyes, mane of blonde hair – plus a beard. his daughter didn’t have one of those (if you sniggered at that comment, don’t, I’ve known my share of absolutely beautiful women with beards). We shook hands and sat; him behind a desk crowded with paperwork, me just to the side.

“It’s good to meet you. My, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the company of a sorcerer. Thank you for coming back here quietly – and for assuring my daughter you come with no mission in mind.”

“It’s been a while since I was in the company of a werewolf, too. I’m just passing through, but I heard folk talking about you – and given what they were saying, I just wanted to confirm my suspicion on who you were. That’s really all there is to it.”

“Well, I hope they were saying nice things. They seem to like us, but of course we always need to be careful.”

“Well, they seem to love you, if that helps. Think you walk on water.”

He smiled at that, so I was glad I’d dropped in. It’s hard to be a supernatural amidst the commons, sometimes, so when you can get reassurance that you’re doing alright, it helps set the mind at ease. We chatted a little longer before I left. I said I’d never seen a shapeshifter work with animals before – I was curious as to how the animals didn’t scent the wolf in them and get scared. It seemed that this bloodline had developed the ability to alter their scent a little, enough to turn off that bolt reaction most animals have, and more recently it’d been altered further to give off a calming “I’m your friend” sort of feeling. I assume it was done initially in order to make prey hunting easier, but it would have been rude to ask so I let it lie. But it meant the animals trusted them instead, and because they’re part animal themselves, with a high empathy skill, they could get inside the heads of the ones that needed them. They could calm them, ease their stress, find out what was wrong, and so on.

It’s kind of the perfect job for that family. The last few generations have worked on the animal empathy thing and the scent, and it means animals just fall over them. They’re great vets.

After we talked, I invited the family to dine with me at a restaurant of their choice (no, that’s a joke – there was only one restaurant) – my treat – that evening, and took my leave. It’s never polite to keep someone away from their work for too long.

It was a pleasant meal. I got us a nice private room by tipping the restaurant manager, and we talked supernatural things. They were starved for it – one of the other problems of living with the commons. I gave them any news I could, paid for the meal, and left town the next day. No point me staying where I might slip and create trouble.

But I check in on them every now and then, take them out if I’m ever near their area. They have to move every so often, before people notice that they don’t really age at the same pace as commons do. Sometimes they split – make like the older ones are retiring and leaving the business to the younger ones, or whatever. Every so often they add a new member to their pack, keeping it at around the same number all the time. It’s complicated, but they’re alright. Still helping out animals. Always helping out animals.

I don’t get it, but then I rarely understand shapeshifters. Their brains work very different, being part creature and all.

Anyway, I hope that was close to what you wanted. Those folk are excellent people – way better than me, believe that!

I’ll be awaiting your next question, as scheduled.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my latest story. If you’d like these right to your inbox, please subscribe to the mailing list on the top right. If you’d like to support me, please share my stories around! You can also select one of the links to the right, and offer a donation via Ko-Fi or subscription via Patreon, which will help me out immensely with daily living. Either way, thanks for your time, and come back soon!

Writing prompt used:

A new veterinarian clinic opens in town. It soon becomes a huge success, as all members of the small staff team are absolutely great with animals. They claim their secret is patience and love. …Since, of course, they couldn’t really tell how their actual secret is being a pack of werewolves. teascentedlibrary.wordpress.com

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