The Wolf Queen

The dark road rolled on ahead and the moonlight through the overhanging trees cast strange shadows on the path. The silence was nearly absolute, broken only by the occasional call of an owl. This was a strange and dismal wood, and few people had the courage to enter it during the daylight hours. At night, nobody dared to come near it. It was said that the woods were guarded by spirits that would clamp onto a man and suck the soul straight from him, leaving him an empty shell of himself. It was said, too, that strange creatures lived in the woods-creatures that were neither man nor beast, but an unholy combination of both.

But all the stories did not bother Richard Stone, a young man that resided in the nearby village. He was a tall lad of eighteen, with a handsome countenance, blond hair and blue eyes. However, underneath the innocent exterior lurked a heart as cold as the winter's ice. Many a fair maid of the village had succumbed to his charms, only to be coldly cast aside when a prettier flower came along.

Then one day, whilst Richard was walking through the village square, he spotted a beautiful woman at the well. She had long black hair and shapely legs. She turned and looked at him, and her sharp green eyes pierced his soul. He strolled up to her, his charming smile already fixed on his face, and the woman merely stared at him in slight contempt.

"My Lady, I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you. Pray tell me, what is your name and where do you live?"

The woman smiled mysteriously. "I have no name that you could say, and I live with my family in the deep woods. Should you care to visit, come by moonlight, and the path will be marked for you." She gave him another piercing stare, and he blinked as though dazed, and then spoke as though in a dream.

"I will come and see you tonight, my love."

And so it was that Richard found himself riding into the deep dark woods with only the moon and owls to keep him company. He had gone in a few feet when he noticed a black shadow slip past him. 'It is but a shadow. I have nothing to fear.'

A second shadow darted in front of the path, and his horse reared in fright, neighing. He stroked its flank, whispering words to calm it, when the horse reared again, sending him to the ground with a bang, then turned and galloped away to the safety of the village.

Richard was now alone, and he set off limping down the path, ears attuned to every noise and eyes fixed on every shadow. He began to feel afraid, but then the thought of the lovely lass with the green eyes and black hair entered his mind, and he went on.

The deeper he went into the woods, the more he was certain that he was being watched by something. He would notice movement out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look, there would be only the deep black shadows. An owl called, and Richard jumped in fright at the strange sound.

He heard the sound of soft footsteps behind him, and he stopped.

"I am most surprised you came all this way." The voice behind him was soft, almost mocking, and he turned to see the green eyed girl staring at him, a smile of amused contempt playing on her lips. "But then again, your reputation precedes you. You would not turn down an opportunity to add another notch to your bed post. You see a pretty woman and the first thought in your head is 'How can I get her out of her petticoats?' But not all women are as easily succumbed by your charms, and many have charms of their own."

She smiled wider, her teeth white and somehow sharp, and her eyes seemed to glow in the moonlight. Richard gulped, stepping back, and a loud, low growl made him stop dead.

Directly in front of him, its yellow eyes gleaming like lamp posts, was the largest wolf he had ever seen. Its mouth was open, and a red tongue lolled over sharp white teeth. Richard trembled in terror, and the wolf crouched as though to spring.

"Down. I have not given the command yet. Down all." The woman spoke in a soft voice, and the wolf obeyed, sitting on its haunches and eyeing Richard expectantly.

He trembled and spoke, his voice quavering. "What wicked sorcery is this?"

"Have you not heard the tales of these woods? There is one that speaks of a Queen of Wolves, a woman able to command and bend them to her will. Legend says that if a woman wronged calls on the Wolf-Queen, the man who has done the wrong will die at the teeth of her wolves. A pretty story, is it not?"

"It is only a story."

"The story goes on to say that the Wolf Queen herself cannot change her shape, but she has enchantments of her own. Her eyes can hypnotize and lure a man to his doom. A pretty story, yes?"

"It is only a story!"

The woman smiled, her eyes glowing like lamps. "Is it? Look around you!"

Richard looked, and felt ice cold with fear. He was surrounded by wolves, and they were all fixed and intent on him. The woman-the Wolf-Queen- smiled her teeth white and sharp.

"You have wronged too many women, Richard Stone. Your life is forfeit to my wolves."

Richard turned to run, and the largest of the wolves sprang, knocking him down before he got two paces.

When it was over, and the wolves sated, the woman turned and walked down the dark road, humming quietly.

The dark road rolled on, and the woods were silent once more.

THE END.