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Moonless

by Thistle


"At last, one the one hundredth day of my hundredth year, Death is trudging toward me," she mused to herself. On her final night, tucked away in the forest she reigned over, the white wolf of the mountain rested alone on a stone slab near the edge of a clearing. Tonight the forest seemed to huddle around, the trees watching in tense silence. She protected those trees, and the animals who lived there. She loved each creature deeply, even the small white moths that fluttered around her when the moon came out. They seemed to dance upon her silver fur and paws in the briefest of moments before letting the breeze carry them back into the cool air. They left her one by one as dawn approached, sending rays of gold and amber over the trees and drawing dew drops from the grass. On this morning, the trees were grim and still.

The animals told her that a hunter had come into the forest to kill her, and so patiently she waited. She did not run or bare her deadly teeth. She rested her head on her paws and closed her eyes as she listened to the human approach, his footsteps growing nearer and nearer through the trees, breaking through the serene silence on two graceless feet. When he came into the clearing the wolf raised her head and observed him as he fumbled with his bow, a drop of sweat running from his brow down to his chin. An overall unimpressive beast, his build was slim and his eyes were weary from the tiring journey to find her, but he held a spark in his eyes as he gazed upon the wolf.

She considered how easily she could crack his skull between her teeth, but remained motionless. The hunter hesitated, clearly thinking the same, and wondering why she did not rush at him now, but soon enough he tightened his grasp on his bow and drew back an arrow. A moment of anticipation passed before he released and the arrow struck her heart. Quietly she laid down and died, and the hunter stared at her body in awe. simultaneously elation and disappointment rushed through him as he watched the blood seep down her chest and pool upon the rocks. The thrill of the hunt was tainted. He could not enjoy a kill that was met with no resistance. There was no fight, no chase, only death. Something about the heaviness of her presence had shaken him as well. Something about the acceptance in her eyes.

He knelt before her and tears flowed freely down his face, and he wondered why, but his greed could not be washed away. He smiled as he examined her beautiful pelt, knowing no common wolf had fur so long and white, or blood so dark and vibrant.

"I've killed a forest spirit" he muttered as fear, pride, and sorrow fought for control over his mind and body. He shivered when he looked at her eyes, which seemed thoughtful and awake, gazing straight at him. He jumped to his feet, then fell again to his knees when she used one last breath to speak.

"You will take my place and protect this forest. Kill only when you must. Take life only to preserve balance. Reap the benefits only after you have served the trees and creatures. I have done this duty long enough." As she spoke her fur became brown, her flesh began to rot, melting away from her bones, and her eyes became black and lifeless. "Fail me, and you will writhe between my jaws in the afterlife."

Even the trees were quieter after she finished speaking and only a pile of bones and blood remained. The hunter groaned as he let his bow fall to the ground. That beautiful pelt, probably worth more gold that he could carry, was gone. There was nothing he could bring home to his family except the bones, and what point was there in that? He curled forward, resting his forearms on the ground, touching his head to the dirt. What point was there in returning to his family at all? He could no longer remember their names.

Suddenly every beast, insect, and bird began to call out. Even the trees and moss spoke. Not in any language he knew, but in thoughts and feelings that he could clearly understand. He began to scream with them, overwhelmed by terror. They all mourned for the wolf he had killed and they begged to know what fate held for them now that she had been replaced by her own murderer. Murderer, they repeated. He felt his eyes trying to produce tears, but they could not. He began to tear at them with desperate hands until blood spilled down his face.

"Murderer," he said with them as they chanted one last time. As he slowly sat back on his heels, the creatures went silent. He gazed skyward, seeing only blackness, and felt the rivers of blood run down his cheeks. He smiled. They felt like tears. Drop by drop his emotions fell to the earth, soaking into the soil. The creatures began to mutter softly throughout the forest, some fearful, some curious. He could see them more clearly than before. He could feel them. All he had known before slowly faded from his mind. His fingers found the bow at his side and he rose, holding it firmly in both hands as he listened to his forest and his creatures. On calm and steady feet he walked out of the clearing and disappeared into the trees. 


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Sat Nov 20, 2021 8:48 pm
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there, and a belated welcome to YWS! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh, this was certainly and interesting story! It definitely had the vibe of one of those old, lesser-known fairytales because of the somewhat sad ending and the stupendous, consistent writing voice you took throughout. I loved the deep images it contained regarding nature and the messages it sent about mortality, morality, and duty. I really enjoyed reading it.

One thing I think you did well was your imagery in this. I was really impressed how you used those descriptions to really keep the reader entwined in the story. Normally, when stories don't have a lot of dialogue, I find myself having a hard time keeping focused, but yours was so descriptive and mysterious that I just had to keep reading to see what the hunter was going to do. I think the length also benefits this piece. It's short enough that readers can read it multiple times and not get bored with it, and it also allows them more time to absorb what they read. It almost makes the impact more impactful, you know, given that you've been able to fit all of that into just a short story on the shorter side.

I also really liked your ending. That soft acceptance on the part of the hunter was absolutely lovely to read. On my first readthrough, I thought you might be hinting at some ambiguity given that he picked up his bow and walked away, but when combined with your language during that part, what with all he knew before fading away and "his forest and his creatures," it seems to me that he's accepted his fate. Then again, there is still some ambiguity in it; the possessiveness he feels towards the creatures might make him more willing to shoot them because they're "his" now. I'm not sure if I'm reading too much into this, but I really did enjoy that understated ambiguity, even if it was unintentional. It felt like the perfect end to the story.

Specfics

When he came into the clearing the wolf raised her head and observed him as he fumbled with his bow, a drop of sweat running from his brow down to his chin.


Since "when he came into the clearing" is a sentence opener, you need to separate it from the rest of the sentence with a comma.

simultaneously elation and disappointment rushed through him as he watched the blood seep down her chest and pool upon the rocks.


Tiny thing: just noticed you forgot to capitalize the first letter of the sentence.

"I've killed a forest spirit" he muttered as fear, pride, and sorrow fought for control over his mind and body.


Since "he muttered" is a dialogue tag, you need to put a comma separating it from the dialogue. Right now you don't have any punctuation.

Overall: really nice work!! I think you presented a deep and thought/image provoking story that definitely has the makings of something that'll stay with readers a while. I hope to read more of your work on this site sometime soon. Until next time!!




Thistle says...


Thanks so much for the review! I'm glad you liked it!



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Fri Nov 19, 2021 12:12 pm
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Ahh, this was a really powerful story. The title doesn't quite tell you what to expect, but once you get through it...well, this is quite something. It really surprised me at every turn and in a good way, with a pretty powerful tale being told here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

"At last, one the one hundredth day of my hundredth year, Death is trudging toward me," she mused to herself. On her final night, tucked away in the forest she reigned over, the white wolf of the mountain rested alone on a stone slab near the edge of a clearing. Tonight the forest seemed to huddle around, the trees watching in tense silence. She protected those trees, and the animals who lived there. She loved each creature deeply, even small the white moths that fluttered around her when the moon came out. They seemed to dance upon her silver fur and paws in the briefest of moments before letting the breeze carry them back into the cool air. They left her one by one as dawn approached, sending rays of gold and amber over the trees and drawing dew drops from the grass. On this morning, the trees were grim and still.


Ohh, bit of a bittersweet start here. I think it creates a wonderful little combination of what looks to be a rather peaceful and lovely environment but its couple with the sense of impending death which certainly gets your attention quite well as a reader.

The animals told her that a hunter had come into the forest to kill her, and so patiently she waited. She did not run or bare her deadly teeth. She rested her head on her paws and closed her eyes as she listened to the human approach, his footsteps growing nearer and nearer through the trees, breaking through the serene silence on two graceless feet. When he came into the clearing the wolf raised her head and observed him as he fumbled with his bow, a drop of sweat running from his brow down to his chin. On overall unimpressive beast, his build was slim and his eyes were weary from the tiring journey to find her, but he held a spark in his eyes as he gazed upon the wolf.

She considered how easily she could crack his skull between her teeth, but remained motionless. The hunter hesitated, clearly thinking the same, and wondering why she did not rush at him now, but soon enough he tightened his grasp on his bow and drew back an arrow. A moment of anticipation passed before he released and the arrow struck her heart. Quietly she laid down and died, and the hunter stared at her body in awe. simultaneously elation and disappointment rushed through him as he watched the blood seep down her chest and pool upon the rocks. The thrill of the hunt was tainted. He could not enjoy a kill that was met with no resistance. There was no fight, no chase, only death. Something about the heaviness of her presences had shaken him as well. Something about the acceptance in her eyes.


Okayy....well that happened quickly, I was expecting this particular plot point to take a little longer to come into effect, but well, it was done pretty well here. I love how we get to see that this is certainly someone who has accepted death and was simple waiting and as such despite their natural instinct to tear the hunter apart, simply stood there...and you can really see the effect it has on the hunter as well to see an animal simply give in that way. Its a powerful little moment here and it seems like it will have consequences to come.

He knelt before her and tears flowed freely down his face, and he wondered why, but his greed could not be washed away. He smiled as he examined her beautiful pelt, knowing no common wolf had fur so long and white, or blood so dark and vibrant.

"I've killed a forest spirit" he muttered as fear, pride, and sorrow fought for control over his mind and body. He shivered when he looked at her eyes, which seemed thoughtful and awake, gazing straight at him. He jumped to his feet, then fell again to his knees when she used one last breath to speak.

"You will take my place and protect this forest. Kill only when you must. Take life only to preserve balance. Reap the benefits only after you have served the trees and creatures. I have done this duty long enough." As she spoke her fur became brown, her flesh began to rot, melting away from her bones, and her eyes became black and lifeless. "Fail me, and you will writhe between my jaws in the afterlife."


Ohh..well, this story is surprising me at every turn here. I was expecting a far more peaceful end perhaps with the man realizing what he has done and trying to fix it...but instead we now have a powerful challenge almost. Well, the hunter does still realize the magnitude of what he has just done and succumbs to it, but the wolf's last message there really took me by surprise and adds so much more of an aura to this death and that last descriptions almost sounds like an example of the threat the man was issued for how he will wither and die and suffer forever like the decomposing body there.

Even the trees were quieter after she finished speaking and only a pile of bones and blood remained. The hunter groaned as he let his bow fall to the ground. That beautiful pelt, probably worth more gold that he could carry, was gone. There was nothing he could bring home to his family except the bones, and what point was there in that? He curled forward, resting his forearms on the ground, touching his head to the dirt. What point was there in returning to his family at all? He could no longer remember their names.


Oh wow, well it looks like the challenge by the wolf takes effect incredibly fast as well if this person is already unable to remember his own family. On one hand it feels like some sort of terrible curse, but also like the wolf simply going for a bit of a transfer of power knowing that they're time in this world was short regardless of this hunter's arrival.

Suddenly every beast, insect, and bird began call out. Even the trees and moss spoke. Not in any language he knew, but in thoughts and feelings that he could clearly understand. He began to scream with them, overwhelmed by terror. They all mourned for the wolf he had killed and they begged to know what fate held for them now that she had be replaced by her own murderer. Murderer, they repeated. He felt his eyes trying to produce tears, but they could not. He began to tear at them with desperate hands until blood spilled down his face.

"Murderer," he said with them as the chanted one last time. As he slowly sat back on his heels, the creatures went silent. He gazed skyward, seeing only blackness, and felt the rivers of blood run down his cheeks. He smiled. They felt like tears. Drop by drop his emotions fell to the earth, soaking into the soil. The creatures began to mutter softly throughout the forest, some fearful, some curious. He could see them more clearly than before. He could feel them. All he had known before slowly faded from his mind. His fingers found the bow at his side and he rose, holding it firmly in both hands as he listened to his forest and his creatures. On calm and steady feet he walked out of the clearing and disappeared into the trees.


Dipping lightly into horror territory there with that particular move. I have to say I didn't see that coming at all but it makes for such a powerful scene here to see the entire forest including even the moss speaking against his evil action and him very physically suffering this horrifying moment of almost some sort of cleansing before almost mechanically going off to what I assume is simply carry out the duty he was just issued. Its a really powerful ending here.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, I think its a pretty decent little story. A very clear plot with plenty of extra mystery sprinkled in and it comes together really well to create quite the powerful situation here. Anyway I think that's all I've gotta say here. :D

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




Thistle says...


Thank you so very much for your kind words!



HarryHardy says...


You're Welcome!! :D



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Fri Nov 19, 2021 5:20 am
thepages says...



Ok that was simply great . Loved every piece of it.




Thistle says...


Thank you so much!




You wake up in the morning and it feels impossible? Good. You do it anyway.
— Martin Scorcese