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Late For His Shift

By Peter G. Reynolds

Part 5

Beware the Light. She warms but also burns. She shows the way but also blinds. Her face is defeat. Her smile oblivion.

But the Light cannot touch the Dead Wolf, for Time is his shield. He will be the Last and the First and shall live longer than all those that came before.

He will wield that which has been hidden for centuries yet is always near. Light cannot survive where one cannot breathe, and the Dead Wolf has no breath to give.

The Prophecy of the Dead Wolf was, unsurprisingly, cryptic, like all good prophecies and New Yorker cartoons. It had been around since the Middle Ages when Ron's ancestors lived in the Irish kingdom of Ossory. They were, in fact, descendants of the legendary Laignech Faelad himself, whose line gave rise to the Kings of Ossory. As a child, Ron secretly fancied himself a lost prince who would one day return to claim his throne, but the closest he got was being a fan of Prince. And though there was no castle, with battlements and turrets rising in the mist, Sign of the Times was a pretty sweet album.

The words have been interpreted and reinterpreted by clan soothsayers for centuries. There were few things they all agreed on, except that a great war was coming, a war no single clan could win. Many believed the Dead Wolf would unite the clans by sacrificing himself. That he would "live longer than all that came before him" as a martyr, a hero immortalized in storey and song.

That's the version Ron believed as he looked at his brother standing on that rock, fur dyed crimson from the gaze of the full moon. Gary was the Dead Wolf. He'd already convinced the other heads of the clans to meet here on the emerald shores of their ancestral homeland. It had not been easy, but they had little choice. The signs were clear. Not a single live birth among the clans in thirteen moons. The Light, whatever it was, was coming for them all.

"Dead Wolf" the chanting began slowly as some of Ron's siblings stopped howling and gazed in awe at their brother.

"Dead Wolf. Dead Wolf." The words grew in strength and conviction

“Dead Wolf! Dead WOLF! DEAD WOLF!”

Yes. Gary was the Dead Wolf. That was certain, thought Ron. What he hoped wasn't certain, was the "dead" part.

Ron and the rest of his family had only arrived in Ireland a week before. They'd taken a very indirect route to get there from their home in Canada. First a train to Halifax, then a seasick-inducing voyage in a cargo container to Iceland, and finally passage on a local trawler bound for Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland. They did this to avoid meeting the other clans until they were on sacred Ossory ground. The only place on Earth they wouldn't be spaghetti and meatballed on sight.

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