The howls had begun again.
It terrified the adults more than anyone when it first happened. Stiles and the rest of the village had been in the middle of an annual festival dedicated to one of the village’s two week long holidays. The holiday honored the last new moon of spring and the first full moon of summer. It was personally one of his favorite holidays, the start of summer celebrated with two weeks of dancing, drinking, games, and feasting. The village was in the middle of the New Moon Feast which kick started the two-week holiday celebration when a single, long howl quieted the settlement.
The adult’s faces all went pale. Stiles’ father, the village Sheriff, and the community’s leader, Gerard Argent, exchanged a look that Stiles had seen before, and knew very well that it never meant anything good. The younger kids had hushed, but their faces didn’t quite hold the same level of fear as the adults. Even Stiles didn’t fully understand, he was only eight the last time this happened.
More howls chorused in the distance, they were far off but that didn’t seem to settle any of the negative energy buzzing through the village square. The Sheriff gave Argent a quick nod, and Argent proceeded to address the community.
“It seems that, without warning us, the wolves are early this year. Get yourselves and your families safely to your homes and stay in for the night. The council will meet right now in the Silver Hall to discuss our next move and make an announcement tomorrow morning. Goodnight and be safe, all of you.”
Stiles immediately looked over at his father, who sat next to him at the table they’d been feasting at.
“What the hell is going on?” Stiles asked, eyebrows knitting together.
“I’ll explain everything as soon as I get home, just go and wait for me there,” his dad said. His face was a mask of calm but there was a flicker of fear in his father’s eyes.
Stiles obeyed and turned to head down the path to his home, where he spotted Scott, Allison, Jackson, and Lydia. Scott urged him to come over and join them. Their parents were all on the village’s council together, so not only did they live next to each other, they’d grown up together, the five of them. Except lately it seemed like everything was turning into Couple #1, Couple #2, and Stiles and His Right Hand. Not that he was bitter about the fact that everyone had paired up except for him. Not bitter at all.
“Okay your grandpa runs the place,” he said to Allison as he approached. “So you have to know what the actual hell is going on. I know the wolves come every ten years, but what’s so terrible about them being early?”
Allison bit her lip and shrugged.
“I really don’t know to be honest with you. My father and grandfather are very tight lipped when it comes to the wolves. I’ve got just as much of a clue as to what’s going on as you do.”
Well, that didn’t help in the slightest. He guessed he would just have to wait until his dad came home from the council meeting to figure everything out.
The house Stiles and his father lived in was small, simple, and more or less a well-built wooden hut, as were the rest of the houses in the village. It had a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and two bedrooms. One was downstairs and belonged to his father; the other was basically a loft accessible by ladder. That was Stiles’ room. Everything in the village was simple. They were a simple people and had a simple way of life; they saw no need for extravagance.
The village was large and completely independent. A forest surrounded it on all sides but one, where a large river bordered the clearing. They had their own fields full of crops, traps set for catching fish, and skilled hunters to bring home game from the forest. Everything and everyone in the village had a place, and Stiles was happy here, he told himself. And the only reason he kept reminding himself that he was happy here was because he liked constant reassurance. Right?
Maybe it was just the curse of the teenager, but still, Stiles always felt like something was missing for him in the village. Like there was a piece that just wasn’t fitting for him here. All of his friends but Scott just passed it off as a side effect of his mother’s death. Saying he probably felt something was missing because he was missing her. And while he’d nod and smile along to that statement, he knew it wasn’t true. He’d felt like this even before his mother’s death.
Scott would just grip his shoulder as if to say “I know man, something’s missing for you here” and sometimes someone else acknowledging and understanding that things just weren’t quite right for Stiles was all he needed. He was always thankful for Scott in those moments
Later that night, when Stiles heard the door open, he quickly clambered down his ladder to see his father looking rather weary at the door. He motioned for Stiles to go sit in the living room while he went to the kitchen to grab his bottle of whiskey and a glass. Stiles immediately sat and waited, completely silent. His dad only ever drank when he was very stressed out.
Sitting down in the armchair opposite the couch Stiles was currently sitting on, the Sheriff took a drink and sighed.
“The wolves are early this this time,” he said quietly. “Normally they come every ten years on the exact same day ever since we can remember.”
Stiles just nodded and stayed quiet, letting his father continue.
“Usually they come at the end of autumn. Not at the end of spring. We were supposed to have six more months to figure everything out and make sure everything gets sorted,” his father rubbed his forehead, anxiety leaking into his voice.
“What are they here for?” Stiles asked, finally finding his voice.
“A human tribute,” his father answered, voice barely above a whisper.
“Human…a human tribute?” Stiles gasped. “I-I thought when you all talked about paying tribute to them we gave them money, or food, or something. Something other than a human sacrifice! Th-that’s so messed up. Who the hell thought to give a person to a bunch of werewolves!”
“It was one of the demands of a treaty made long ago,” his father said, quite calm like the fact that the crazy wolves wanted a living breathing human being from their innocent, simple village was normal. “I guess we could consider ourselves lucky that it’s only every ten years. I hear word that the other villages in the area pay tribute every other autumn.”
“What?!” Stiles sputtered. “What exactly happens to the human tribute?”
His dad only shook his head.
“We don’t know. We’ve never heard from any of the tributes after they’ve been taken and we’re not exactly in contact with any of the other villages, for safety reasons. I have a feeling Gerard knows. I have an even worse feeling that he won’t tell us because he can’t bear to.”
Stiles shuddered at that thought.
“So what now, you have to find a tribute? Shouldn’t that be easy? Just throw them a criminal from the jailhouse. One that deserves to die anyway.”
The village was fairly peaceful but there were a few more-than-petty crimes here and there from time to time. He was pretty sure there was an attempted rapist or something in the village’s prison. Throw him to the wolves. He was barely human anyways.
The Sheriff paused.
“There are certain…requirements for the tributes,” he said hesitantly. “They were listed in the treaty and the pack is very set on making sure these standards are followed.”
“What are the ‘standards’?” Stiles asked curiosity piqued.
His father’s face reddened a little bit, unless that was just Stiles’ imagination, and he refused to look Stiles in the eye as he spoke.
"A young adult between the ages of 18 and 24, male or female wolves have no preference either way. Also they must be a person with good morals and in good standing with the community. Unmarried. And lastly, though it’s only uh…preferred instead of necessary, they like the tribute to be a virgin,” hid father said clearing his throat as he finished his sentence.
“Oh. Uh, why do they prefer…virgins?”
“Gerard said it’s to pay homage to the Roman goddess Diana or something along those lines. Goddess of not only the hunt and the woods and wild animals, but also the moon. And you know, werewolves, so I’m assuming any moon goddess is pretty important to them. And they apparently claim that Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, you know the story, raised by a she-wolf and such, were the first werewolves or something. Anyways, Diana was a virgin goddess so maybe that’s where the whole virgin tribute thing comes from I really don’t know I got all this information from Gerard and it sounds really ridiculous when you say it out loud.”
Stiles laughed at that, but he was still a little freaked out by all the information. They sat in silence for a while until he finally broke the surface with the one question he’d been waiting to ask all night.
“So when do they get here?”
“The howls always start a week before they arrive. We have seven days to pick a tribute, which is very much so pushing it. It usually takes months to find the right person, talk it out, and go through the legality of the whole situation with the person and their family.”
Stiles let out a low whistle. Seven days. The wolves will be here in seven days.
“Do they actually come into town?” Stiles asked. “Like, will we get to see them?”
“No,” his father said, shaking his head. “Only one ever enters the village at a time. Whichever one is claiming the tribute. They approach the altar at the peak of the moon, take the tribute, and go. It takes less than five minutes if the tribute is fitting for the wolves, and the rest of the town is left unharmed.”
“What if the tribute isn’t deemed fitting?” Stiles asked.
The Sheriff shrugged, “We don’t know. They’ve yet to turn away one of our tributes. But I don’t want you out this full moon do you hear me? No sneaking off with Scott to check things out. It’s mandate that the rest of the village stay in their homes with their curtains drawn and doors and windows locked. No funny business, I’m serious.”
“Now get to bed,” his father said, shooing him. “It’s been a long day and that’s enough information for one night.
As Stiles climbed his ladder and crawled into bed that night, he wondered who the tribute would be. And what would happen to them.
As the days progressed, Stiles could slowly see his father, as well as the other council members become more stressed. The village was filled with unease and the only noise was that of people’s tense whispers, if the council couldn’t pull through, who knew of the destruction the wolves would bring upon the village. They needed a tribute, or lots of people were going to die.
That’s what Gerard said at least at the town meeting for those of age (18 and above) the morning after the feast. Stiles thought the council hoped it would either convince someone to step forward, or scare the people enough so that when the time came they would have no quarrel with who was picked as tribute. The village had two days until the wolves arrived. Things were not looking too good.
Not surprisingly, no one came forward to volunteer themselves.
But there was an idea in Stiles head. An idea that had been festering ever since he lay in bed the night after his father told him everything. It was a mad idea. A completely idiotic, stupid, suicidal idea. But the village was desperate.
What if Stiles were to be the tribute? He would admit, he was no hero. The idea scared the shit out of him. But he could technically be chosen. He was the right age, in good standing with the community, definitely not married, and definitely a virgin.
There was really no future for him in the village. Sure, there was his father and his friends, but other than that, there was nothing. No one Stiles could see spending the rest of his life with (it seemed almost everyone had found significant others already anyways, and damn they’d all hopped on that train early) and he wasn’t even saying that to be an angst-ridden teenager. Unless some new person stumbled into the village and magically fell in love with him, there was no one for him here.
Might as well take one for the team and go out honorably, right?
When he mentioned this to Scott, he looked at Stiles like he’d lost his mind, though he admitted Stiles’ argument for doing so was completely valid. Maybe the wolves didn’t kill, maim, and/or eat the tributes. Maybe they just took them into their society or something and turned them into werewolves to expand their pack and power. It was so highly unlikely but Stiles totally wouldn’t mind supernatural powers.
Scott and the rest of his friends would move on eventually. It would be the hardest on his father, especially after losing Stiles’ mother. But he had friends, lots of them, and a newfound comfort in Ms. McCall (that had been years in the making if Stiles were being honest) and in time his dad would move on too. He would understand, especially because what Stiles was doing was all for the greater good.
Plus, as of currently, this was all hypothetical.
He wasn’t going to volunteer though, he told himself, unless the situation absolutely called for it.
As it turned out, the situation absolutely called for it.
Allison’s father, Chris Argent, came over the night before the wolves were to come to make the final arrangements with the Sheriff. His dad thought he was out running amok with Scott somewhere instead of hiding in his attic bedroom so the men didn’t feel the need to keep their voices down.
As it turned out, they had chosen a tribute, or Gerard had chosen a tribute, Elaine Littlefield. She was a pretty thing who had just turned 20. She was sweet, kind, and innocent and Stiles absolutely cringed at the thought of leaving her to the wolves. She fit all of the requirements, but something didn’t sit well with Stiles. There was something, and he couldn’t quite think of it, other than her sweetness that made his heart ache at naming her tribute.
Oh god. He remembered. She had been dating this boy, Douglas, since they were fifteen. Douglas was friends with him, Scott, and Jackson, and he specifically remembered the day before the festival started Douglas saying he was going to propose to Elaine at the end of the festival on the night of the full moon, the full moon fell on the summer solstice this year and it was good luck or something like that. Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. This wasn’t okay. It wasn’t fair. Elaine and Douglas deserved a happy ending.
He was started from his thoughts from the scraping of chairs as the men below him stood.
“I guess that’s it then,” his father said glumly.
“There are few others eligible this time around, and Gerard’s word is law,” Chris said. “Unless someone comes to us before noon tomorrow, then Elaine Littlefield is our tribute.”
Stiles heard footsteps and the opening and closing of the front door, as well as a sigh from his father.
Stiles fell back on his bed and covered his face with his hands.
He knew what he had to do.
The next morning Stiles stopped by Scott’s to inform him of his decision. Scott’s face crumpled at the news and it was all he could do to wrench Stiles into a bear hug so tight it left Stiles gasping for air. When Scott finally let go he put his hands on either of Stiles’ shoulders and squeezed.
“Just know that no matter what I support you. I may not agree with this for my own selfish reasons of never wanting to lose you as a friend. But what you’re doing for Elaine and Douglas is noble. Just, I’m going to miss you so much,” and with that Stiles was pulled into another bear hug.
Scott’s words did not have him sniffling a little on his death march to the Silver Hall, thank you very much. He just had allergies to all the pollen in the air. As he reached the doors and gripped the handle he took one last deep breath before wrenching them open dramatically. Hey, he could be dead by the peak of the moon tonight, might as well play up the theatrics. The council stared at him in confusion, and he could almost feel his father’s eyeroll, so Stiles knew he had to get the words out. With his heart pounding and head swimming, and before he knew it the words came spewing out of his mouth like vomit.
“I volunteer,” He gasped. “I volunteer as tribute.”
The council was quiet for a few moments, but finally his father spoke.
“Stiles,” he croaked. “No, you can’t.”
Gerard clapped his hand together and stood up, a smile that made Stiles sick to the stomach plastered across his face.
“Your son will be a hero Sheriff!” he said, gripping Stiles’ father’s shoulders. “This is a noble thing he is doing, very noble indeed!”
“Stiles please,” his father begged. Stiles could hear the hurt and it broke him, but he had to do this.
“Dad, I have no future here. You know that. I cannot let you take someone else’s future from them. So I’m offering myself up as tribute.”
His father just dropped his face into his hands, shaking his head. The rest of the council, especially those he knew better than others, gave him looks of either pity or downright sadness.
Gerard on the other hand seemed delighted.
“Let’s get you washed, fed, and all groomed up for our guests tonight, shall we?” He motioned for his two attendants to come forward and with that, Stiles was whisked away.
Before he knew it, Stiles was bathed, fed a hearty and delicious dinner (he tried not to dwell upon the fact that it was probably the last meal he’d ever enjoy), and dressed in all black, sitting in some room in the Silver Hall.
They’d let his father come in after dinner for a tearful goodbye in which the Sheriff held his son like clinging to him could save him from what was to come. Stiles whispered over and over how sorry he was and his dad just continued to say “I love you, it’s okay” back. When an attendant came to escort him out, his father turned in the door and gave his son one last, long look.
“I know you’re doing this for the sake of the village son, and I just want you to know how proud I am of you. No matter what happens to you out there tonight, I just want you to know how proud I am of you,” his father said voice breaking towards the end.
“I love you dad, so much,” was all Stiles could choke out before they ushered his father out of the door.
The attendants then motioned for Stiles to follow them. Gerard met him outside the door with what appeared to be a red cloak. He handed it to Stiles and told him to put it on. Gerard stood in front of Stiles and pulled the hood up over his head.
“It’s symbolic,” he said, the creepy smile working its way back onto his face. “It represents an old fairytale from way back when about a child and a wolf. Very fitting, don’t you think?”
Stiles just nodded and followed Gerard out of the Silver Hall, the two attendants flanking him. When they stepped outside, Stiles was surprised to see it was already very dark and the moon was well on its way to peaking in the sky.
The people of the village gathered in the streets to watch Stiles make his way to the altar that was at the forest’s edge. Many murmured thanks or gentle, encouraging words. Some of the people that knew him well were crying. When he rounded a corner he saw Elaine and Douglas standing side by side, the look in their eyes screaming silent thanks. Scott must have told them. Lydia, Jackson, Scott, and Allison, were at the very edge of the village with their parents and Stiles’ father. Allison and Lydia were crying but the others just looked at Stiles in a way that said we love you, we’ll miss you.
Exiting the village, Gerard led him down a grassy opening and to the altar. Seven torches were arranged in a circle with a single log set in the middle. The attendants waited outside the circle, Gerard leading Stiles in and guiding him to sit down on the single log that sat vertically in the dead center of the circle. He moved behind Stiles to pull his hood down and arranged Stiles’ cloak to puddle into the grass behind him, and pulled the hood back from Stiles' head.
Suddenly, the world went black.
Oh, yeah, wait. That was just a blindfold. Really he could still see a bit of the light from the torches’ flames through it, so it wasn’t too bad. He felt Gerard tie it snugly behind his head, and then there were lips at his ear.
“Best of luck, Little Red,” he whispered and pulled the cloak's hood back up. Stiles shuddered at the creep factor of that sentence and basically Gerard in general because…ew. Gerard’s footsteps retreated, taking with them the nauseated feeling in Stiles’ stomach. He knew that right now the rest of village were hiding their kids, their wives, and their husbands as well as locking up their houses and pulling the curtains over the windows. Now all Stiles had to do was wait.
Waiting was surprisingly terrifying yet boring at the same time and Stiles didn’t even know how that was possible. But he kept waiting.
And, seriously wolfy? If I’m gonna get killed and/or eaten can you please hurry it up a bit. All this waiting is playing on my anxiety Stiles thought to himself. After what seemed like a great deal more waiting, he heard it.
His heart started beating at an alarming rate probably screaming to every werewolf in the vicinity “I’m here, come and get me!”
And now that it was actually happening, Stiles was so not ready to die. Oh, god. He was going to die. Not only was he going to die, he was going to die a virgin. Well, he probably would’ve died a virgin anyway even if he’d had the chance to live to a ripe old age, let’s get real here people. But still!
The howls grew louder, and closer, echoing through the night. Suddenly the howling stopped and it was eerily quiet until a single wolf let out a very long, loud, and distinct howl. And that’s when Stiles heard the rustling. Something was definitely emerging from the forest.
He jumped and flailed a minute later when he felt hands placed lightly on his shoulder. He had no idea anyone was even near him, the wolf was a quiet little shit holy god. He couldn’t help but struggle and squirm away from the wolf’s touch, almost falling off the log.
“Woah, hey calm down,” a quiet voice said behind him, definitely belonging to a man. Stiles still struggled and two arms wrapped hesitantly and gently around him. Okay, yeah, that was some serious muscle. The wolf was definitely a man. The gentleness, however, surprised Stiles, and he stilled for a moment.
“Good, relax,” the pleasant voice said. “I’m not gonna hurt you.” The words snapped Stiles out of his sudden calm state. Oh, like hell you won’t he spat at the man internally and began to struggle and flail again. The man behind him sighed and one of his arms let go of Stiles for a moment or two only to come back and grip him harder.
“I was told that this wouldn’t be easy, you coming from this village,” the man said. Why’d he put an emphasis on “this”, what did he mean by “this village”?
“I really don’t want to do this, I really don’t,” and the voice did sound sorry and genuine, but wolves were deceiving. “But you leave me with no choice. I’m sorry about this, in advance.”
With no warning there was something at Stiles’ nose, he instinctually jerked back but managed to catch quite a good whiff of whatever it was. It was heady and thick and soon Stile’s head was swimming. The last thing he conscious brain registered was the gentle arms tightening around Stiles.
Oh god, he thought, I’m dying.
And this time, the world really did go black.