Prologue: The Start of the Nightmare

The whole village population had been in the church, all fifty-two of them, to witness their noble's daughter marry one of the king's knights. They had felt the soul-binding, heart-fluttering connection the moment the two had laid eyes on the other, which lead to the inevitable wooing and courting.

At first it had been nothing but shy glances and subtle compliments, which had been uttered by stuttering lips. As the days went by, their words of love and faithfulness had become bolder and there was no more hesitation when the knight would grab the young maiden's hand gently. In the forest is where they had expressed their love for one another; away from curious eyes and gossiping lips of peasants and other nobility.

After a month of secret rendezvous and stolen kisses, the knight and the noble's daughter planned a wedding in the village that her father collected taxes from. None of the villagers took any mind to the choice of location; in fact, they were all excited to see their noble's young daughter be married in their church. The baker had baked a large assortment of breads, the inn keeper provided his finest ale, mead and rum, while the butcher smoked his freshest meats and had even ordered his sons to hunt a boar for the reception. Every person in the village was at work to make this a great celebration for the bride and groom.

Soon, they had all piled into the church and watched in awe as the beautiful bride had walked toward the alter.

The bride had been a beautiful sight to behold. Her golden hair had been let loose as a crown of various wild flowers rested on her head, defining her high hair-line. Her eyes sparkled more brightly than the green and red jasper that decorated her necklace; and the blue dress had just defined her petite figure and bosom more so than her regular gowns.

The knight was just as handsome. A wavy brown mane spilled around his broad shoulders. He had a face young enough to have not yet been chiseled and scarred away with war or battle. He had been dressed in silver armor, which had been polished so thoroughly that it had become white and shined as brightly as the sun.

The moment the good Father had pronounced the two "husband and wife", the whole audience erupted into a gleeful cheer, tossing grains of rice and wheat at the newly-weds as they walked past the crowd. The congregation followed them out and a feast was had with joyful music, hot food, dancing, and plenty of drinks.

But where happiness begins, so does a dreadful sadness.

A young man with short orange hair shuffled into the now empty church. His eyes were puffy and bloodshot as silent tears stained his freckled cheeks.

He was the son of a witch, who lived five miles away from the village and six miles away from the noble's home. Though he had been training to be a wizard, the young man had stopped training when he had met the noble's daughter. The young man had introduced himself to the beautiful maiden months before the knight had ever thought about visiting the village.

He too had fallen for the girl's enchanting beauty and innocence.

One day, he had given her a fantastic rose crafted from glass. "This rose will never wilt," he had explained to her, "So you will always see its jealousy for not being as beautiful as you".

The noble's daughter had smiled at his words and had even kissed his cheek. Had he known that she had thrown the glass flower into the river and had asked the priest to douse her mouth with holy water the very same day, the boy would not have fallen so madly in love.

But he had not. Instead, he had to witness the love of his life marry and kiss a knight, who was far more handsome than himself, with pure unconditional happiness.

The sight replayed in the young man's head over and over again, making his grip on the rope tighten with jealousy and sadness. He wanted the pain to end and to fill the new bride's heart with guilt and sadness.

He could not remember how he was able to get up onto the church's beams, but the young man did remember tightening the noose around his neck before jumping.

Wood creaked from the weight and the rope snapped tight as it held onto its baggage securely, even as it dangled lifelessly in the church.

The first person to see the unholy sight was the witch who had birthed the young man. As she stared at the sight of her dead son, she now understood why the forces at work had brought her to the church. A painful wail came from her mouth as she fell to her knees. Tears fell from her face onto the rice and wheat that still littered the floor. No one heard the mother's screams of pain and unfathomable sadness; nor did anyone notice her leave the church for her home.

Without hesitation, the witch concocted her revenge, knowing exactly who was to blame for her son's tragic end. She did not return to the village until she was sure she could pull off a joyful appearance and gleeful air. With the green potion in her pocket, the older woman approached the beautiful bride and her handsome husband with the best fake smile anyone could ever muster after finding their child dead.

"Drink this with your wine," the witch cooed, lacing her voice with glamor, "and your offspring's deeds will be on the tongues of everyone in the kingdom for centuries."

The bride did not even wait. The moment the elixir was in her hands, she poured the whole thing into her glass, not being satisfied until the last drop was in her cup. The young woman gulped the drink down and coughed at its bitter taste, but smiled after it had been washed away with another sip of wine.

After that, the witch walked back to the church to retrieve her son's dead body and any evidence of his presence. She buried him in the forest, which was his favorite place to be in times of happiness and joy.

Nine months later, the young bride goes into labor in her husband's manor house. Even as an excruciating pain courses through her body, she is excited for the baby. She remembers the elixir the old witch had given her and the prophecy that had come with it.

Hours pass and the pain grows as more blood stains the sheets. The soon-to-be-father paces like a caged animal, rooms away; wincing every time he hears his wife's screams.

With one final push, all the pain was gone. For a moment, the mother relaxes and breaths as much as she can; but the horrified scream of one of the servant girls brings her attention back to the baby. All three of the lower-class girls were huddled in a corner, either praying or sobbing profusely at something between their lady's legs. The whine of a baby was what urged the woman to sit up, to see what was wrong with her beloved child. At the sight of the little being, the woman screamed in horror and rolled off the bed.

One of the three servant girls went to the lady's side and helped her crawl away from the bloodied bed where the abomination lay crying and writhing at the feeling of being cold and alone. The baby's skin was as gray as stone. Its ears were pointed like an imp, and a tail as thick as its legs wagged back and forth in confusion as the creature kept crying for some form of comfort. There were numerous bumps on its head, across its brow and down its spine. However, the most horrifying thing was how the shadows in the room, cast by candle and torch light, seemed to slither towards the demonic child. The shadows slinked across its writhing body and, for a moment, its cries died down to aggravated groans. Soon, the black silhouettes took the form of two waving tendrils resting on either side of the baby's head. Though the ear-splitting wails and spastic movements had softened, all four women could still sense the child's discomfort as it waited to be held by someone, anyone.

Heavy boots pounded on the floor, announcing the father's arrival before he even opened the door. The knight, hoping to see his wife in bed, holding their beautiful newborn child, was more than disappointed to see the scene before him. At first, he blamed his wife, striking her with the back of his hand. The nurse-maids shrieked and backed away from their master and mistress, but made sure not to get too close to the bed.

"The witch!" The lady cried, "'Tis the witch's fault! On our wedding day, during the celebration, she gave me something to drink!"

"And you accepted? A drink from a WITCH!?" The knight bellowed, causing the baby to cry out again, but none made any move to try to silence it.

"She told me that if I did, my lord," the lady sobbed on her hands and knees, looking up at her enraged husband, "the child's deed's would be on the tongue's of all the people for decades!"

Anger twisted the man's once handsome face into something that resembled an ogre. "But did she not say whether the deeds were for good or evil? You stupid whore!" Again, he struck his wife's face, ignoring the blood dripping from her nose and lip and the bright bruises that were forming on her cheek. Snatching a nearby blanket, the man stomped over to the baby and did what the women were terrified of doing. He wrapped the wool material around its tiny gray body, making sure every part of it was hidden from view. With his horrid son cradled and shielded in his arm, the knight left his manor and rode on his painted steed to the witch's hut.

It took two days for the knight to arrive, and the baby's cries of hunger and filth were beginning to get on the grown man's last nerve. He forced the weak door open and stormed over to the old magic-user the moment his eyes found her. The woman was calm and had not complained about his rude entrance; even when the knight yanked the blanket from the baby's face, the witch showed no signs of shock, guilt, or disgust.

"This is your doing, wench!" The knight exclaimed, "Undo what you have done to my son, or God help me, I will cut you down where you stand!"

The witch wanted to tell him how it was his treacherous wife's fault for their son's appearance; if the young lady had not deceived the witch's son, none of this would be happening.

Instead, the short woman said calmly, "This child will have a brother in a few years after the elixir your wife had consumed has left her system completely. And it will be the younger brother who engages the inevitable combat. Until then, the child you carry will live."

"I refuse to let this abomination live any second longer! If you cannot reverse what you have down, then I shall kill it myself!" Before the knight could reach for his knife, the witch grabbed a handful of gold powder and blew it in his face. The man staggered and shook his head, but soon he was still and his eyes became clouded.

"Your wife will care for the babe in your arms until she can no longer bear to look at his face," The witch said calmly, "And you, good Sir Knight, will do no harm to the child. But you will still be distant from its life and you will keep forcing your wife to care for it. Do you understand?"

"Yes," the knight mumbled. She smiled victoriously before taking the baby from his arms. After she had finished feeding and cleaning it, the witch wrapped it in a fresh blanket and returned it to its father.

"Go back home Sir Knight and do as I have told you." Without any argument or hesitation, the man left the hut and rode back home.

Needless to say, the knight's wife was horrified to see their child unchanged and alive. When she tried to ask him why the monster was still alive, the knight shoved the crying baby in her arms and said, "He is hungry and needs to be changed. Fix it now or I will make you cry harder than he." The wife winced at her husband's words and was too terrified of his threat to wonder why he suddenly cared for the child's well-being.

As the years slowly ticked by, the baby grew and the servants began to leave the manor in fear of bad luck.

The small bumps on its head and back were replaced with small horns. No matter how much the child ate, no fat seemed to accumulate on its bones, which made it more terrifying to see the outline of ribs and spine through the gray skin. Not only that, but when the child could finally open its eyes, many of the servants fainted or screamed at the sight. There was no white in the child's eyes, nor was there an iris; instead, both eyes were black and the only color was the red pupil, which was shaped like a cat's.

The servants feared the child was the spawn of Satan or one of his henchmen sent to convince them to indulge in Sin. And though the servants left one by one, the child was ignorant of their reason.

One day, the child even said, "Allison left today, Mother. Why did she go? I liked her red hair."

It was then that the lady of the manor could not stand it anymore. She had to get rid of the creature before she went insane.

The child was seven years old when its mother led it deep into a forest, far away from all civilization, during a harsh winter. Both of them were dressed in heavy cloaks and clothes, but even with the layers of protection, both were shivering from the wind and snow.

When the lady stopped in front of a great tree, she turned to her frightening son and said, "You are truly blessed my child," she lied, getting down to his eye level and forced herself to touch his face. "I had a dream from God. He told me you would see an angel, but you had to be alone in order to see it."

Being the ignorant child he was, the gray boy smiled to reveal his rows of pointed teeth. "How will I know the angel is here Mother?"

"Angels have the most beautiful singing voice," she explained, grateful that the boy believed every word. "This angel will sing for you, and only for you. Now I must go, or you will never see this angel." And with those final words, the woman left the child alone in the forest.

For days the boy waited for the angel, passing the time by observing the animals that wandered close to him. A variety of different animals appeared every day, all of which went close enough to sniff him before walking calmly away.

One day, a wolf talked to the boy. He was shocked to hear words come from its muzzle and thought he was dreaming; but when the wolf told him to follow it back to its den, the boy knew it was real.

The wolf and its pack taught him how to hunt during the winter and where the best places were to sleep and keep warm. Though the canine was helping the boy, it would not allow him to sleep with its pack or share any kill the wolves may have made.

"Use the knowledge we have given you for yourself," the wolf said, "Winter is a deadly season for all of us, and we cannot spare any food for you, Gray One."

So the boy was forced to hunt alone. For the first few days he was unsuccessful and would fall asleep near the wolf's territory; however, he finally was able to catch and kill a rabbit. Not knowing how to make a fire, the boy was forced to eat his kill rare. No sickness took over the child, and the very next day he killed a fawn that had wandered too far from its herd with his bare hands.

The next time he saw the wolf, who had taught him how to survive, the animal did not speak to him. Even when the boy thanked him for the knowledge and skills, the only sign of acknowledgment the wolf made was by going up to him and licking his boney hand. He was confused as to why the animal could no longer speak, but the thought soon left as the need to survive the winter took over all thought.

After three grueling months of blizzards and days without any food, the snow finally melted away to reveal the grassy ground. Trees began to grow buds at the end of their branches. Wild animals were more abundant as many of them came out of hibernation or were excited to finally nibble at the grass that had been hidden from view for so long.

It was during this season that a fox with a lean body approached him like the wolf had done.

"You have a special power Gray One," the fox said, "Those shadows on your head are not for decoration. They can make you look human to the eyes of men and women. However, they cannot deceive their children or us animals. Not only that, but beware of reflections, for they will reveal to everyone what you truly look like. And don't let anyone see your eyes, for they are the only ones that cannot change their appearance."

The child asked the fox how he could use the black tendrils to do that, and the fox began to teach him. For days, the fox would snap at him every time he messed up but would reward him with a quail or an egg for doing the lesson correctly.

Spring was almost gone when the fox revealed that the boy can also use regular shadows as portals to go to different places. At first they practiced going from the shadow of one tree to the next until the distances from one shadow to the next grew. It was not until the middle of summer that the boy was able to go from one end of the forest to the next in a matter of seconds.

Like the wolf, the fox lost its ability to speak and licked the boy's boney hand after being thanked.

At the age of ten, a great bear approached the boy during the beginning of spring and challenged him to a fight. "Defeat me," the bear grumbled, "and you may have my pelt for winter and my meat for your belly."

"What if I lose?" the boy asked.

"Then you become stronger," the bear replied, "I will not kill you, but I will hurt you. Every day, you will learn a valuable lesson in combat. And until you kill me, I will always be victorious. Now let us begin."

After hunting for so long, the boy figured that if he strikes quickly and first, then surely he would win the fight. He lunged at the brown beast, aiming for its neck with his claws; but the bear was faster than its size lead on to be. With one swift movement, the bear smacked the boy aside as if he were a fly.

Pain seized his shoulder as he lay on the forest floor. It hurt so much that he did not dare move, not even when the bear lumbered over. "Lesson one, Gray One," it growled, "don't rush an opponent bigger than you." The shaggy creature snorted and walked away, leaving the boy to moan and groan on the floor.

For days, the bear would challenge the gray-skinned boy. Their fights lasted longer as the boney child learned to dodge and use the shadows to his own advantage. Yet, every fight ended the same way. The bear would finally get a powerful strike in and knock the young one to the ground. Sometimes the injuries were so bad that he would have to hide himself from the bear in order to let his body heal.

When the boy was sixteen he saw the wolf, who had taught him to survive the winter, hunting with its pack. The boy followed them until he saw a tiny herd of deer the pack was stalking. Wanting to truly thank the alpha wolf for the lessons, the boy ran after the closest deer, making the rest of the herd flee at the sudden arrival of a predator. It was easy for him to overtake a slow doe; the moment his claws dug into its flesh he knew he had won. He brought the animal down, clawing and biting at its skin and neck until it had stopped moving.

The wolves were watching him, keeping their distance away; but when he left the corpse, the large canines were all over it as if they had made the kill. It was then that the bear charged the pack, snarling and growling until the alpha male was the only one standing its ground. The boy watched as the bear swiped at the wolf with a massive paw, making it yowl in pain as the canine tumbled across the earth.

Without thinking, the boy charged at the bear head-on and leaped onto its massive back. The giant animal roared as claws and teeth sunk into its flesh. It shook its body so viciously that the boy was thrown off the matted pelt. A mighty paw lashed out at him. Claws dug into his flesh as the force pushed him on his back. He looked up just in time to catch the bear's open jaws with his boney hands. Furious grunts and roars blew from the open mouth as it tried to bite its attacker; but the years had taught the boy to be strong, now struggling only slightly to keep the jaws away. Soon he was gouging at the animal's belly with the claws on his feet. The bear roared and shook his head away, rearing to its full height to bellow louder.

The boy scrambled to his feet and tried to get away, but claws scraped against his back twice and even chipped a few of the horns. He stumbled to the ground and shrieked when a paw smacked his gut. With one final effort, he reached into the bear's shadow and pulled himself through until he was suddenly in another part of the forest. Too exhausted and in too much pain to care, he laid on the grassy floor; unaware of an amethyst-eyed cat watching over him.

When he finally woke, the throbbing pain of his injuries was nothing more than a dull numbness. Across the claw marks was a crusty green substance that was beginning to flake off his skin. When he scratched the substance away, the bright scars that should have been on his skin were nothing more than very faint marks. As he got up, he noticed a deer leg next to him. It was then he knew exactly who had protected him while he slept.

But had no clue as to who had tended his wounds.

At the age of seventeen, a raven approached him and asked, "So you're the Gray One, eh? Shouldn't you be with humans instead of us animals?" He ignored the bird until it said, "Why are you here?"

He did not answer immediately, not because he was reluctant, but because he could not remember. It took him a while to finally answer, "Mother said I would see an angel."

The raven laughed an ugly laugh before asking, "And have you seen this 'angel' yet?"

"No. But she said I would hear its voice when it arrives."

"You've been played Gray One," the raven sneered, "It's been a decade and you haven't seen any angel. Not to mention that house you were born in is really full since you've been gone."


"Yeah! Tons of humans there and they all look very happy now. You should check it out."

The boy felt confused about this news. When he had lived at the manor there were very few people living and serving there. Not to mention that if they were all happy now, then there must be some sort of celebration going on. Perhaps his mother was waiting for him right now by the tree where she had left him to bring him back home?

Without another thought, he raced through the forest, ignoring the twigs that lashed out at him, until he arrived at the tree. He stood by the great trunk for a long time, trying to remember what his mother had looked like.

He remembered her ghostly complexion and the purple bags under her dull eyes. As he reminisced, the boy began to realize why his mother had looked so unhealthy and ugly. Now that the boy's blissful ignorance had been replaced by rational thinking, he knew the truth. She had been afraid every time she had to look at him. Her own son! She had been terrified of him! She had brought him to this forest to be rid of him, to never see his monstrous face again.

An anger he had never felt before began to swell up inside the boy's gut along with a hopeful doubt. There was no way his mother had abandoned him here on purpose; she loved him, didn't she? Perhaps she had been forced to leave him behind? Surely that was the true reason.

Without hesitation, the boy slipped into the shadows. When he stepped out, he could see his old home in the distance. Before he took another step forward, he used the shadowy tendrils on his head to form a human disguise. Satisfied with his appearance, he stepped toward the manor and noticed that there were, indeed, more people. There was also a lighter, happier air to the estate that had not been present when he had lived there. Everyone seemed to gathering towards the garden and so the boy followed, hoping no one would notice him.

The crowd stopped in front of a balcony where three people stood, two of whom the boy recognized immediately as his mother and father. The third was a young boy, no older than ten years old, who looked exactly like the knight he was standing next to. It did not take long for the disguised, gray-skinned boy to know that the little one was his brother.

Mother looked down at her youngest son with joy, not fear.

Father beamed proudly at the crowd with his giant hand on the small shoulder.

Jealousy buzzed around the disguised boy's head like a nasty swarm of flies at the thought of being replaced by a normal looking child. As the knight announced the little one's birthday, more anger began to rise.

"Thank goodness this one came out normal!" A lady whispered to her companion, "Their first born was nothing but an omen!"

"Oh don't even mention that thing or your next child will end up looking like it too!"

"And think of how it affected the poor lady. She looked like death walking when it was around."

"Good thing she left it to freeze in the forest. We're all better off now that the little demon isn't here."

It was then that the boy could no longer stand hearing the constant truth being whispered among gossiping ladies and gentlemen. He let out a furious roar, causing everyone to gasp and stare at him in shock and fear. His attention was not focused on the people at his level, but at the woman on the balcony who had birthed and deceived him.

"TREACHEROUS WENCH!" He bellowed, pointing an accusing finger at her shocked face, "You TRICKED me!"

The husband pushed both wife and child back protectively, glaring down at the furious guest. "See here! My wife has done nothing to you, good sir! Nor has she ever even met you!"

"No good, deceiving spawn of a WHORE!" The boy snarled, ignoring his father completely, "You left me to DIE! YOU LEFT ME TO DIE!"

A man grabbed the boy's arm in an attempt to calm him down; but the boy lashed out at the man, ripping the neck open to let loose precious amounts of crimson life. Many of the women screamed in terror as he let the disguise fade away to reveal onto everyone who he really was. Many of the men gasped and backed away as a few women fainted. The boy focused his attention on his terrified mother as she grabbed her youngest son protectively. Her husband whispered something to her and nudged her away until she had decided to run with her son into the manor.

The demonic boy roared like the monster he felt like and lashed out at a stranger who had gotten too close, hearing the rip of fabric and the warm sensation of their blood coating his claws like a rainstorm. Most of his rage was let loose upon the unlucky visitors and servants he was able to catch. Sometimes he would rip them open to reveal steaming intestines and other gooey organs, while for others he would sink his fangs into their necks until he had ripped their vocal chords out with one jerk of his head.

It was not until his father confronted him did the monster ignore the screaming survivors.

The knight, armed with sword and armor, swung at his demonic offspring with the shining blade. The monster dodged and lashed out with bloody claws, scraping against the steel plating and leaving three deep gouges. The man paid no notice and swung the sword again before thrusting it at the monster's stomach. Again the blade missed, and the gray creature countered by swiping its tail at the man's legs, causing him to fall to the ground.

The moment the knight had fallen, the monster dove at him with jaws open and claws ready to dig into any unprotected flesh. But the man still had his sword, which he drove straight at the attacker's gut. As if on instinct from fighting the bear so many times, the creature disappeared into the shadow of the manor house, leaving behind a confused knight.

He stood up, searching for any sign of the gray-skinned monster among the massacre in the garden. Of course, in his confusion, the knight never suspected that it would be behind him, creeping out from his own shadow. The creature grinned maliciously behind the unsuspecting knight before plunging both sets of claws into his unprotected sides. A pained gasp escaped the man as he felt the long fingers of the monster wiggle inside of him, probing mercilessly at any organ they could reach. It grabbed onto the kidney and liver before yanking both hands out of the man, only to rub the bloodied organs all over his dying face. His dead body slumped to the floor and the monster released the two tiny organs before turning its attention to the manor house.

It took the creature a while to find its mother, who was trying to hide her youngest son in one of the large cabinets in her room. The woman sobbed in fear as the gray-skinned creature she had birthed approached, cornering her against the stone wall. With one swift movement, it snatched her face between its long clawed fingers, squeezing against the bone tightly until it could feel her jaw starting to crack.

As she whimpered, the creature glared at her scrunched face and growled, "There never was an angel."

With those final words, it snapped her head to the side so fast that her pale neck broke. Her body went limp and the monster released her, watching the body of its mother fumble to the floor.

Exhaustion began to creep into its bones, but as it began to leave the room, a terrified whimper reached its pointed ears. Jealousy offered him enough strength to rip open the cabinet doors and yank its little brother out of his hiding place. He shrieked in fear and tried to wiggle out of the monster's grip as it stared at his face. The boy was definitely a normal looking child, and it made the creature question why this one was not cursed too.

"If you were not born a freak," the monster snarled, slamming the child's tiny body against the stone wall with one hand, "Then I shall turn you into one!"

It lifted its free hand before bringing it down repeatedly over one side of the boy's face. The child screamed in agony and was crying when the monster had released him. It slipped into the shadows to return to the forest.

All of the animals stayed away from it, smelling death and the stench of human on its body. The creature made its way to a creek and began to wash the foul odor of man from its skin along with the crimson blood of its victims. Something lumbered toward the creek, pushing aside bushes and shrubs carelessly. The great brown bear appeared and the gray-skinned creature turn its back on the animal, no longer caring if it wanted to fight or not.

"You reek of Man," the bear stated. But when the creature did not respond, the animal snorted, "I challenge you to another fight, Gray One."

"Leave me be, Bear," the creature simply stated.

"You don't give me orders," the animal growled, "You're invading my territory, and I have every right to fight anyone who enters my territory! Now, face me!" Still the creature ignored the short-tempered bear. The shaggy animal stood on its hind legs and roared viciously at the gray-skinned intruder before thumping back down to charge. When a massive paw went out to strike, the monster sunk quickly into the water and disappeared. The bear shuffled around the creek, dunking its head in the freezing water to search for any signs of its opponent. It didn't even feel the two long arms that sprouted from the shadows on its back until their claws started tearing at its short brown ears. The bear bellowed and shook its head as the hands slipped back into the darkness. Blood seeped into the torn ears, irritating the animal and hindering its hearing. While it was trying to brush the blood out, clawed hands appeared from the dark water, launching themselves at the animal's eyes. Another agonizing roar flew from the bear as it reared and stumbled backward, swiping blindly at the air from the sudden loss of sight.

Furious at the monster's tactics, the large animal slumped to all fours before charging forward, hoping to catch the creature in its fury. Suddenly, something boney landed on the furry back before claws sunk into its flank and teeth gnawed at the thick neck. Blind, deaf and, for the first time, frightened, the bear stood and tried to reach its attacker. The animal lost its balance and fell backwards into the freezing creek water, but felt no other body being crushed beneath its massive weight. Before it could even try to get up, the monster burst through the creek's surface and attached its teeth and claws into the animal's exposed neck.

Air flow was cut off as fangs dug deeper through layers of thick fur and skin, while claws tore open the bear's neck and jaw. The animal clawed and batted at its attacker, hoping the pain would force it off; but the monster refused to stop the onslaught. After minute of terrifying minute passed, there came a faint popping noise followed by a surge of blood filling the monster's mouth. The bear stopped its frenzied attack as its entire body relaxed with death. Slowly, the monster removed its claws and fangs from the corpse before towering over the dead animal that had beaten and taught him for years.

Finally, the monster had won.

It looked up at the sky and roared out its victory, anger, and grief for killing such a mighty animal; however, it could not bring itself to feast upon the bear's meat. Instead, the monster stalked away into the forest, leaving the body for the fish and scavengers.

Several days after the manor massacre, a group of knights was sent out to investigate why the king was not receiving taxes from the estate's lord and lady. When they arrived, they were disgusted and horrified at the sight and smell of rotting bodies, each one mangled and torn apart as if a demon had gone on a rampage. The knights found only one survivor, the boy, whose face was covered in blood and puss, and asked him what had happened.

Terrified and relieved at the arrival of the king's men, the boy told all that had happened that day when the gray-skinned, horned, tall and deathly-thin monster had appeared. He told of the screams and cries of mercy he had heard coming from the garden and of his mother's terrified prayers as she had led him to her room, only to stuff him in a cabinet full of dresses.

When the boy had finished his nightmarish tale, the knights took him back with them to the king's castle to retell the story. After hearing the child's experience, the king immediately sent out a word of warning to his people; he even sent messengers to warn the farthest peasants of the gray-skinned demon that now haunted their land. Once the news had spread, every misfortune that occurred was immediately blamed on the monster. From a cow unable to produce milk to the Plague that devastated the kingdom for three years; it was all blamed on the monster.

The boy's wounds were cleaned, though he was told there would be scars on his face permanently. One of the knights, who had originally found the child, adopted him as his own son and helped to train him in becoming a knight.

The manor itself was cleaned of the dead bodies; but no one, not even the scarred son, dared to set foot on the property. Superstition warned all of the minds of the humans that the place had been cursed by the monster's presence and was an unsafe place to go near.

As for the gray-skinned creature, it stayed in the forest, left alone to its thoughts of betrayal and murder. Though it would occasionally disguise itself as human and walk amongst the populace in different towns and villages, hoping to find anyone who was rational enough not to blame misfortunes on it. However, it would always leave in anger and disappointment after catching bits of gossip about how it, supposedly, killed a baby during birth or made this year's harvest weak. It knew it had never laid a hand on another human or their property since the massacre, yet it also knew it was condemned to this false gossip forever.