The wolf knelt on his haunches to drink from the lake, disturbing the peace with the thirsty plunge of his muzzle. The sharp intake of air and splash of water all but drowned the tranquil noises of the night as he forced torrents down his arid throat.
Strange that the taste of blood never quenches my thirst, thought the wolf.
Red stained the moon captured in the placid lake, as the ripples of his drink sent the colour of murder through the mirrored night. He raised his head then, after the tainted water settled, to look upon the reflection of the killer. Eyes of searing gold burned from a head of midnight, challenging him with its baleful glare – such human eyes in an inhuman form. So instead, he looked up toward the sky.
The moon was full; it had swallowed the light of every star scattered over the canvas of nocturnal velvet. The moon understood. It knew as well as he did that bodies that didn’t burn brightly would be snuffed out. A weak light is either consumed by the dark, or outshone by a fiercer one. The moon was as ravenous as he was. The moon knew, like him, that it needed to rule its domain.
He stretched his hind legs and stood upright once more. The frenzy had left him, but not the self-loathing. His strength and stature seemed so fickle standing next to his guilt. For all that the primal rush afforded him during his change, it seemed finite when instinct succumbed to conscience in the later hours of the night. But he was numb to the thought; tired of the futile ruminations of a memory drenched in sin.
Neither tooth nor claw could outmatch the the attack of memory. This curse claimed more than his body; it sought its pound of flesh from his sanity as well. The shadows of the past seemed to be with him wherever he roamed; ghosts observing the birthing of their brethren in their chilling and silent solemnity.
But none of them skulked behind trees…
The movement was swift, but slow enough for him to notice. There was an intruder. A darkness had broken away from the midnight forest template. It shifted with the wind, yet settled before the leaves. It was the only clue he had toward the mystery of this new presence that now disturbed his small semblance of peace with its challenge; for no shadow in flight moves towards the larger threat. So, he would move first…
If fear is not your companion this night, then terror shall surely remedy your aflliction of being short-sighted.
The earth exploded where he stood a mere second ago as he bolted toward the treeline and his target; and then, the shadow drifted again. It moved less with fury, and more with the taunting grace of a foe brazen enough not to suffer the fear they were due. Perhaps that should have sufficed as a warning to the wolf. Perhaps logic should have cautioned him to halt that chase, but instinct had propelled him forward. It made him rip through the undergrowth to the point where the pitch of dark wrestled the moonlight for dominion.
He stopped then.
He was surrounded by the embrace of twisted bark and bramble. This whelp is playing games, he thought. Somehow, at that precise moment, a convergence of rationality and instinct had made the wolf reconsider his odds. A shadow had lured him into a place where shadows were invisible. His eyes could not pierce the dark between the trees. He knew not if this unseen foe was smart or victim to folly, but he could only venture to make that guess if it decided to reveal itself.
But, the shadow didn’t intend to appear openly. It watched instead, as the wolf tried to catch whiff of its whereabouts in the wind. It watched… as something larger moved silently toward the wolf, and it anticipated how the predatory scale was about to tilt this night.
You may enjoy similar snippets to a larger epic, all published under October 2019.
Also read Poisonous, the latest addition to the collection, recounting a moment interrupted during one of the many quests of one of the main characters.