There are many stories from the Kingdoms of Ireland of strange and dangerous beings. In Connacht, they say that the Cave of Cruachan opens on Samhain, releasing the Sidhe to ride across the land. In Ulster, they say that Cuchulain once fought a warrior who had risen from the dead. I can not speak to the truth of those tales, only this one. This is a story from near my home, in Ossory near Meath.
To get to Ossory you must travel through miles of dense woods, filled with all manner of creatures. But be wary how you arm yourself traveler. For not all creatures in the woods around Ossory are as they appear.
Within these trees, over shadowed with moss, so close together that even in the middle of the day the forest floor can not see the Sun, there lies a town. Half forgotten and never visited. The men who live there are cursed. They have been abandoned by God for a sin no one dare speak of, forced to revert to the beasts they are at heart.
For nine years one man and one woman must set aside their human lives and don the skin of wolves. They roam the among the trees, indistinguishable from their beastly cousins, hunting and killing as they do, howling to the night and chilling the blood of all goodly men unfortunate enough to see or hear them. Should they live they are allowed to resume their human form and condemn another to take their place.
This is their curse.
My brother, not long ago, was traveling with his Master from Ulster to our home in Meath. They had the misfortune to be forced to sleep in the woods surrounding Ossory by a storm. They took turns tending the fire that night, fearful of the rustling branches and peering eyes that surrounded their little camp.
Around toward the dead of night, in the dark before the dawn, a large grey wolf came skulking. Slinking from the shadows toward the warmth of their fire, long white teeth glistening in the flickering light as he drew back his lips.
With a cry my brother roused his Master and grabbed for anything he could use as a weapon to drive the demon back into the shadows from whence it came. Then the beast spoke.
“Please. My wife lies near, wounded and near death. I’ll not harm you. Please, help her?”
My brother is in service to a priest, who fears no unholy creature, and agreed to go with the beast away from the fire. My brother followed, intent on defending his Master if the need arose. The wolf led them to the base of an oak tree. There, among the roots, lay a she-wolf. Her fur was matted with blood, her breath labored. She’d been pierced through the side by a huntsman’s dart. The priest saw there was nothing to be done to save her life.
“Prove to me that you are a Godly creature and I will administer the last rites and save her soul, for I can not save her flesh.”
The wolf recited holy words, his dying wife gasping what words she could. The priest, satisfied, gave her the final rites. He and my brother then quietly returned to their camp, the mournful howls of the wolf echoing in the woods around them.
And so my friends take care in the woods of Ossory, travel by day and tend your fires at night to keep beasts away. For you may never know who approaches you in the deep of the woods where the Sun can not reach.
This is my version of Wolves of Ossory, http://www.libraryireland.com/Wonders/Man-Wolves.php. The dating of the original to the mid-late 1100s makes this a bit late for me personal wise. However this is still one of my favorite pieces to preform.