It took Levinson another full day of travel to make it back to the camp, and he spent the entire time seething over what had happened. That wealthy cunt denying him half of his pay was bad enough, but the other one… Levinson’s head was filled with ideas on how to make her suffer. A glorified dogcatcher, was he? Well, someday he’d show her exactly what he did with caught bitches…
By the time he arrived, he was exhausted from the journey, and it was late in the evening. They’d finished breaking down most of it, leaving just the barracks and his own tent standing. In the morning they’d return to the States, another long journey that he wasn’t looking forward to. Under normal circumstances he would’ve traveled directly home from England and saved himself two days; the men could manage the camp without him. But he’d been too impatient to try out his new acquisition. If he focused, he thought he could almost feel the fox marble inside of him, like a second heartbeat.
His cabinet was in his tent, just where he’d left it. Insides were his treasures, taken from every monster he’d ever hunted. Claws, fangs, and more, each one with its own unique history. He took a quick inventory, making sure that nothing was missing. His men were useful, but that didn’t mean he trusted any of them, especially after Morris. That son of a bitch’s betrayal still rankled. When Levinson had first found him, he’d been a useless sack of shit wasting away in a hospital bed. He’d given the man a new life, and this was how he’d been repaid.
Once he was satisfied that it was all there, he closed his eyes and opened the false back. The items in the front of the cupboard were priceless mementos, but they were also a decoy. As much as it would have pained him to lose any, their only real value was sentimental. Not like the ones hidden behind them. They had their own stories to tell as well, but they had a far greater purpose: they were weapons.
He kept his eyes shut as he felt for the gorgon eye hanging from a chain. It no longer possessed the power to turn anyone into stone, but anyone looking at it would find themselves paralyzed as long as it was visible. Just the thing for surprising would-be thieves. He found it with his fingers, wrapped it in a cloth, and set it aside before he let himself open his eyes. More than a dozen similarly powerful items were back there, each possessing a sliver or more of their owner’s original power.
But it wasn’t any of those that interested him right now either. What he wanted was at the very back. He stripped out of his clothes first, then withdrew the two furs carefully, not wanting to damage them. They’d been family heirlooms for centuries, passed down to him through his father, though only recently had he learned of their power, and time had not been kind on them. The white fur was so threadbare and worn that it was very nearly falling apart, while the red merely looked tattered and ripped, so he kept the red and put the white back. He held onto the fur and concentrated. For a while, nothing happened and he felt like an idiot.
Then the fox marble inside him began to stir.
Light emerged from his chest, and the red fur seemed to soak it up and begin glowing with a light of its own. Levinson draped it over his bare back and felt it fasten onto his skin and begin to spread, growing to cover his chest and legs. Within seconds his entire body was covered in red fur, even his face, leaving him completely blind. It began to crawl into his mouth, and he gagged as it spread down his throat and through the rest of his body. It hurt, and he fell to his knees and clawed at his throat, trying to draw breath that wouldn’t come. He spent more than a full minute like that before the discomfort receded and air filled his lungs once more. Panting, he opened his eyes and looked into the mirror standing by one side of the tent.
A giant red furred fox with nine tails looked back at him.
Levinson’s jaws parted in a wide grin at the sight. It had worked. It had really worked! His claws flexed as he tried to adjust to his new body. It felt awkward to be on all fours, and when he tried to move his tails as he’d seen the fox slut do on occasion, they just flapped around uselessly. He would need time to get used to this, but for now he felt good. He felt strong, and full of energy, and… hungry. Very, very hungry. It was a fire in his chest that demanded fuel. A powerful urge, but not overwhelming. If he tried, he could resist it.
But why would he want to?
Kent screamed as Levinson tackled him, the cry silenced a moment later when the red fox’s teeth found his throat. He wanted to stay and feed on him more thoroughly, but there had been others with him, and most of them were scattering. Chase them down first, his instincts told him. Then he could take his time eating them all.
His claws tore Wilson’s guts out in a flash, leaving the man screaming and screaming while the red fox pursed the three others. Benson and Price fared no better. Only Perez showed a hint of promise, drawing his gun and shooting Levinson three times as he approached. The bullets bounced harmlessly off his fur, and then Perez’s screams joined the others.
When he stalked back to the campfire, still licking the blood off his muzzle, Daniels and Jacobs were right where he’d left them. “Took you long enough to get them all,” said Daniels. “Your gait needs serious work; you looked more like a dog skidding around on ice than a relentless hunter.” Both of them laughed.
“I got them, didn’t I?” Levinson growled.
“Yeah, a couple drunk guys stumbling about in the dark,” said Jacobs. “Fear the mighty vulpan.” They both laughed again.
Levinson’s temper got the better of him, and he pounced Jacobs. Before they hit the ground he was wrestling with a brown fox who easily squirmed out of his grip, still laughing. “Easy, captain, easy,” he said. “We’re only teasing.”
“I don’t like being teased,” he snarled. Then a weight fell upon him, and the grey fox that had been Daniels pinned him to the ground.
“Get used to it,” the beast said, though his tone was friendly. “You’re the big boss man with this herd of cattle, but you’re the newbie with us, remember?” Levinson glowered, but he couldn’t break free, so after a minute he submitted and stopped struggling. The grey fox nipped him once, then moved away, letting him rise back to his feet. “At least wait until you get your sea legs.”
It stung Levinson’s pride to admit it, but Daniels wasn’t wrong: he was the runt of the pack, not the leader. For now.
“Come on,” said Jacobs. “There’s still plenty of meat in the barracks. Let’s go have a little feast and discuss what happens next.” He grinned at Levinson. “You must be hungry, right?”