Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.
Something shifted next to me and I slumped sideways onto the ground. Snapping my eyes open at the sudden pain radiating from my shoulder, I sat up. Surprisingly I hurt far less than the last time I'd awoken, but the hot ache had only grown stronger. My skin felt tight and the texture of my clothes brushing against was vivid and raw. Finn had stretched out along the ground to grab an apple and woken me. Hunger gnawed at my stomach as well so following his example I gathered a few myself. Looking to the sky, I grimaced. Sunset. I'd slept almost a full day. A faint thumping grew steadily louder and Jaron strode into the clearing followed by a dozen people I didn't recognize along with the big bald man, Kelber, and the skinny man from yesterday. They all dressed in clothes clearly looted from our village and carried people I did recognize.
He was unconscious over the shoulder of a large brown-haired man with dark eyes. Dried Blood coated his face and a crude attempt had been made at bandaging his eye and ear. His pants and shirt were stained red but I couldn't make out any injuries other than a badly torn leg under the mess of his clothing.
Our fellow villagers were dumped in the center of the clearing raising a chorus of groans and whimpers. There were fewer of them than there should have been. Out of near sixty of us there couldn't be more than thirty left. Rushing to dad's side I checked his wounds. Besides the ear and eye his worst injury was his ankle, which was bent to the side unnaturally with the whiteness of bone visible up against the skin. His breath pressed faintly against my face. He was alive. Silent tears slid down my cheeks as I held him.
"June! Mr's Mariet! I'm so glad you're alive! Where's Pieter?"
June's happy expression at finding me alive soured, replaced quickly with anger followed immediately by sorrow.
"Just there." She pointed to the edge of the gathering. "He's breathing, but he hasn't woken up at all, not even when they tried hurting him!"
True to her word Pieter lay on his back upon the grass. Laying dads head gently back on the ground I moved to kneel beside Pieter. His jaw slanted wrongly off the one side, clearly badly broken, and the entire right side of his face was a mottled purple and black.
Fury filled me. My glare found Jaron. He stood off to the side, his people at his back and Kelber at his side. They laughed and milled about completely untouched by the suffering around them, suffering they had caused. We were in the grasp of true monsters; monsters who apparently wanted to make us like them.
With that thought my fury was joined by an equal amount of fear and I turned away. Finn and I tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible before we sat together with June, each being careful not to jostle our injuries. Shouldn’t I be in more pain? I could still feel the pull on the torn skin of my shoulder every time I moved, but it was just pressure and the tingling hot aching.
"Is this everyone?" Finn asked June.
"I think so."
They both looked extremely pale and I’m sure I was the same.
"Where- What are they doing with the bodies?" June’s voice was quiet and quivered slightly, as if she didn’t really want to know the answer.
Looking over to Old Joe our eyes met and he answered simply.
"You mean they're not in the village?"
"Then don't think about it. It's not important right now, just keep doing what you can for them." He nodded to the worst off in the clearing center.
"Oh gods! How can this be happening?!" June exclaimed.
"Hah. You ain't seen nothing yet girlie. The real show's about to start." Looking up we found Kelber leering down at us. He gestured towards Joe, Mayor Thomas and the others propped up next to the trees. I couldn't see what he was getting at and just as I went to look away pale moonlight fell upon them. With sudden gasps twin beacons of amber lit up the faces of everyone whose skin the light touched. A sudden cacophony of cracks and grinding bone drowned out their groans a moment later.
"Time to cull the weak from the strong!" Jaron's exclamation was met by cheers from his people that quickly grew more guttural, but I was unable to tear my eyes away from the spectacle in front of me.
My friends, the people I'd grown up with, were transforming into monsters before my eyes. Old Joe started coughing, convulsing violently on the ground. A few moments later he spasmed and went still, his face towards me. I watched as life faded from his eyes, followed soon after by the amber glow that had taken it from him. The ethereal light crawled across the clearing towards me. The aching heat I'd been feeling grew to an inferno as it crept ever closer, shining upon the grass. June struggled to stand, screaming, while Finn remained staring slack jawed.
Leaping to my feet, I grabbed dad under the arms. Ignoring my pain, I desperately dragged him away from the moonlight.
"Finn! Help June!"
With a shudder Finn seemed to realize he should be doing something, but it was too late. The same amber light spilled from their eyes and they joined the others frantically pulling at their clothes, choking on screams.
"Youu can'tt runnn fromm thee moooooon-lighhttt spearrr girllll"
Ignoring Jaron's twisted taunt, I pulled with all my strength once more, dragging dad another few feet. He was too big, too heavy; and my left arm wouldn't work right, the agony in my shoulder too debilitating. The light only gained ground despite my efforts, sliding over the edge of dads scuffed leather boots onto the bare skin of his injured leg. His eyes snapped open shining like all the rest. Letting go, I stumbled backwards, falling to one side on the grass.
"No. Stop this!" I pleaded without knowing who I was pleading too.
Large, clawed hands closed around my shoulders, pulling me to my feet, facing me towards the light. The moonlight fell upon my face and a bolt of energy raced through me. Like feeding oil to a fire, the inferno inside me exploded outwards and I felt my skin stretch, unable to contain it. The grip on my shoulders released and I fell to my hands and knees screaming. My ribs flexed outward as muscles twisted, bulged and grew taut. I felt my jaw crack and begin to push out, growing fangs forcing my teeth apart. Pain filled every nerve but even it was not left unchanged, the fire inside consumed it, the pain evaporating into a strange sense of release. Staring down at my fingers in front of me among the grass, I watched with burning eyes as long black talons sprouted and grew. My new claws dug into the soil involuntarily as my hands shifted and changed, becoming almost paws but with longer more dexterous fingers. Light brown, almost red fur erupted all over and my poor shredded blouse finally ripped completely. With a series of cracks and pops I felt my spine curve, forcing me to hunch further forward on the ground.
Panting, I realized it was over. A sudden howl started behind me and new, alien instincts pushed me to add my voice to theirs. Others joined the howl and it built until I needed to join in. Thrusting my head backwards I howled for all I was worth. As it died down a large black werewolf, Jaron, growled.
Somehow, I understood and a desire, a need to obey the alpha of the pack overcame me. New alien thoughts and feelings mingled with my own. Part of me realized I wasn't thinking straight, that I'd changed, but an equal new part of me felt nothing but exhilaration.
Jaron took off up out of the valley and we followed into the forest beyond. Air rushed through my fur, filling my ears as they twitched and swiveled strangely atop my head. Sounds and smells filled my mind with new explicit detail, a tapestry that had always been there just beyond my senses. The darkness barely hindered my vision as I ran, following the pack. New instincts guided me and flexing powerful muscles I leapt over a fallen log, dashing swiftly through the underbrush. A sense of freedom filled me. Moonbeams filtered through the canopy; shafts of light dancing with the movement of the leaves above. It felt right, like I belonged with the pack among the trees and brush. Yet at the same time a small sense of wrong and fear at the back of my mind persisted despite my new feelings.
Suddenly we changed direction and I smelt something warm, something alive; the scent of freshly kicked up dirt and wind beneath the trees. The new part of me that reveled in the strength was suddenly ravenous, flushed with the desire to hunt, to kill. Rushing through me it took full control as the thrill of the hunt stole what little focus I'd retained and the chase overtook me. We approached from downwind of our quarry, silent but for the soft pad of paw on grass. Loping swiftly, we broke from the trees with such speed that the small herd of grazing deer next to a large, clear pond never had time to truly escape. We allowed them to run for a few moments, drawing out the hunt, before Jaron leapt upon a large buck. Immediately I pounced upon the nearest prey, an older doe, bringing her to the ground with my jaws closed on her neck. Whipping my head to the side, I bit down hard. A single sharp crack and her struggles ceased beneath me. A quick death. Warm blood filled my mouth, running between my fangs. It was delicious, a rich tapestry I'd never tasted before. I was starving. Ripping and tearing I ate my fill, seeking the parts that smelt the best to my new senses.
Once sated, I raised my head to gaze out upon the rest of the pack among the trees and my elation at a successful hunt faded. Deer littered the ground and a sense of unstoppable power filled me. Some of the others danced around a pair of adolescent fawns, taking turns swiping them with their claws, reveling in their pain and fear, in their own strength. A feral desire to join them and show my own strength washed through me, but at the same time a sense that this was cruel, wrong occupied the same space. Frozen in place I tried to reconcile the conflicting thoughts fighting for control. Behind the urge to join in, a small sense of confusion came from the new part of my mind. Hunting was for food, drawing out the prey's pain and death was pointless. Watching a moment, the sense of confusion only grew. Leveraging the confusion, the sense of wrongness won. Some control returned and suddenly what they were doing was repulsive.They were torturing helpless fawns, getting off on it, and I'd wanted to join them? I felt sick. Tasting blood and feeling it covering my fingers I looked down at my furred paw-like hands. I'd changed more than just physically, that much was clear. From what was happening in front of me it was obvious the others had as well.
Staring at my sticky, red stained fur, a bottomless pit opened up in my stomach, I felt empty inside. I’m a monster.
Raising my head, I found a brown furred werewolf pacing toward me. Sniffing the air out of instinct, his scent identified him as Kelber. My new instincts rose up again, only this time in complete agreement with my old self. Crouching, I bared my teeth, a growl rumbling up my throat involuntarily. Stopping a few feet in front of me he stared into my eyes, seeming enraged at my reaction.
I felt no need to obey him as I had Jaron and if he thinks I'm letting him anywhere near me he's got another thing coming.
My growl continued unabated and Kelber stretched himself up to his full height, advancing claws outstretched. His muscles tensed just before he charged, attempting to knock me to the ground. From my crouched position it was easy to dart forward, thrusting upward into his stomach with my claws. The strength of my new muscles surged and his feet left the ground. Forward momentum from his rush caused him to fly a short distance before slamming headfirst into the trunk of a large tree. He recovered quickly, scrambling up in only a few moments; although he continued shaking his head as if to clear it even after he gained his feet.
Kelber began gathering himself for a second charge when Jaron stepped between us, human once more.
"Looks like we've a fight on our hands." His gaze flickered over me from head to toe, grinning. "Little miss spear-girl won't go easily to hands and knees like a good bitch aye Kel? I'm not one to turn down free entertainment. Go on then." He stepped back.
Rage rose within me, along with a feral anticipation for the fight to come. I'd show him who the real bitch was here.
We stared at each other, neither making a move. If he wanted me, he'd have to come to me, so I waited. This time, he approached slowly, taking cautious steps forward until he stood just beyond my reach. Lightning fast he jumped forward arms outstretched, attempting to grapple me the ground. Yet I was faster still, as he began to move I saw my opening and took it. With his arms raised to encircle me I simply leapt directly at him. Colliding with his torso, the force of my leap knocked him onto his back with me directly on top of him.
Not wasting any time, I swiped furiously at his neck. The scent of blood from the deer already saturating the air grew thicker as I ripped bloody chunks from his throat with feral glee. Kelber bucked upwards and threw me to the side. I felt to the forest floor, jumping back to my feet the moment after impact.
Spinning around, I found Kelber crouched low, one hand clutching his throat, the blood pulsing from his throat had already began to slow as his unnatural healing kicked in. I howled in furious joy and scenting his fear, his weakness I pressed my advantage. Darting forward I went to rake my claws across his face but he blocked with a forearm and backpedaled. I matched him step for step growing more and more angry as he deflected my swipes with his arms until finally I threw myself at him. He didn't waste his chance. Thrusting his claws outward, the force of my own leap worked against me. His right hand glanced off bone but I felt my ribs crack and his left -hand claws dug deeply into my upper right torso. My own blood joined his on the air, pain washed through me and I was suddenly short of breath as blood bubbled up my throat. Then I landed on him, crushing him to the ground with my weight. Gripping his arm, I ripped his hand out of my chest, ignoring the flash of agony that accompanied it. Opening my jaw wide I crunched down on his hand savoring his blood as it ran across my tongue. I felt his bones breaking and he roared in agony, desperately gripping my muzzle with his free hand, trying to pry me off. Releasing his hand, I gripped his shoulder, raising one arm, swiping downwards with all my might towards his face.
Powerful hands stopped me mid swing, lifting me off the whining, whimpering little bitch and threw me to the side. Slamming into to the ground a second time, I was slower to recover, panting desperate for air as my right lung failed me. Crawling to my hands and knees, spitting blood, I looked over to Kelber. Jaron stood between us, staring at me. Sliding my gaze off him I found a blood covered lump lying on the grass behind him.
Jaron stared at me and all thoughts of continuing, fell away. Still, I'd won. I felt the urge to howl my victory but didn't have the air to do so. I relaxed. Now that the fight was over the pain I'd been ignoring came to the forefront and I looked down. Fuck. He had made a ruin of my torso. It looked as though I'd been impaled on a spear and I was utterly drenched in blood; his blood from when I tore his neck open, and mine from the gaping hole in my chest. The anger returned and placing a hand over the wound I glared over at Kelber once more. I wanted to kill him, but Jaron wouldn't allow it, that much was clear from the way he watched me as he stood between us.
I couldn't get enough air, but as I sat panting it slowly grew easier and I could feel my lung healing. Glancing around I found the others watching me, bloodlust shining in their eyes.
"We'll return to village to sleep and get some clothes. Then I hear there's some peddlers on their way to the city with news of our attacks, giving away our location." He grinned at us sadistically. "We can’t have that.”
We all watched as Jaron shifted into werewolf form in front of us.
Forcing Kelber to his feet, howling a successful hunt and with another 'Follow', he entered the trees.Pressure to obey his command filled my mind, growing by the moment. I fought to resist howling and succeeded in releasing only a quiet whine. Instead I took what small rebellion I could and dashed to the pond where the deer had grazed.
The splash of cold water brought me fully back to lucidity and I found myself filled with a raging hurricane of emotion. I hated Kelber. He just expected me to submit to him simply because he wanted me and thought himself the big strong man and me the weak little girl. I'd showed him just who was weak and I felt nothing but satisfaction about it. Bright sparks of bloodlust and desire mixed with confusion, horror and revulsion at the others torturing helpless fawns and getting off on it. And finally, I felt fear. Fear stemming from the fact that I didn't understand some of my own thoughts and emotions, knowing that I'd never have felt like this before. Fear that I was and forever would be a monster. Even that was tinged with confusion, the new part of me not understanding why I'd feel that way. I’d torn out someone's throat without the slightest hesitation and all I’d felt was glorious bloodlust driving me forward. Finally, there was Jaron. A disturbing mix of fear, hatred, awe and submission came to the forefront as I thought his name. He'd done this to us, killed so many...and yet he was the alpha, wasn't it his right?
The whirlwind of emotion tore at me, threatening to tear me apart and I whimpered, covering my eyes a moment as I tried to regain control of myself.
Running through the trees was a different experience now that I'd shaken off some of the instincts overrunning me during the hunt. I still felt the power, the freedom, but they were outweighed by my growing knowledge that Jaron was right. I had changed in both mind and body, and so had the rest of Glimmerdale; those that survived anyway. It happened so quickly, one moment I was a human girl, the next a ravenous beast. A monster.
I caught up to the others back at the clearing amongst the apple trees, just outside town. Jaron had become human again and was putting on clothes. While everywhere werewolves dragged corpses away. I hadn't realized so few of us survived, the bodies of my former townspeople littered the ground.
Stopping beside Joe's twisted corpse I stared down, crying silently. He lay curled up in the grass, a frozen expression of agony upon his face. Jaron was right again, the weak had been culled from the strong. Only, the strong died instead of letting themselves become monsters, and Joe was the strongest of us.
Looking up from Old Joe my gaze passed over lifeless faces but I couldn't find my dad. Relief filled me but it came with an equal amount of guilt and uncertainty. I was so happy he was alive yet also uncertain if this was a fate worse than death. Either way guilt plagued me for having our little family remain intact while so many others were shattered or wiped out entirely. On top of that, shouldn't I feel more grief? There was sadness, but it was distant, an entire lifetime ago; the change had taken it too, leaving a dull ache far less raw than when I'd sat with Finn just yesterday.
“Guess he was weak after all.” Jaron spoke to me from the clearing center before addressing everyone. "We'll burn the bodies tomorrow before we leave." His lips spread in a sinister smile. "We've places to be."