- William -
I smell her. Even in the darkness, I know where she is. My hearing is more atuned and my sense of smell is more acute than ever before. She's ahead of me, but not for long.
I can't remember anything before catching the sweet scent of her hair. I can also smell blood on her. It's maybe a day old smell, but it's there. The smell of rodent fills my nostrils. A squirrel, perhaps? Or maybe a rabbit.
My heart is pounding and my mouth drools. I feel the creature is about to take over me. But I can't let it. I can't succumb to these animal urges. I am a man. I am a Prince.
I sit in the shadows as the wind brings me more information about her. She's young and alone. A growl echoes in my throat. The creature is pleased with this new knowledge. It wants her.
Slowly, I pad through the woods, following her trail. Her scent is like a beacon, leading a bright path directly to her. My eyes can see it. A faint yellow ribbon weaves through the trees, pausing in pools by large stumps, and then continuing on deeper into the darkness.
I come from the opposite direction when I catch her scent. I must follow it. The creature demands it. I crouch down at the smell of a small campfire not too far from me. I can't hear anything except the crackling of the burning wood. No men. No other sounds.
My ear finally catches a faint groan. I am cautious. If I still have the appearance of a man, I don't think it will be an issue. But I am wearing the creature's skin. I am in its form. Without looking in a mirror, I know the hideousness of my appearance. How long have I been possessed by the creature? Days? Weeks? Years? It seems longer than the true amount. Walking into the camp will not be easy.
I hesitate at the edge of a clearing. Within the center, a small fire blazes brightly with all of the campers sleeping by the fire. I prowl closer, my nose twitching at the smell of burning wood.
More groans fill my ears. I knock into a few fallen swords and axes, sending them clattering against each other. I stop and wait. I expect any one of them to jump up and begin cleaving with a battleaxe, but there is only the groaning.
I smell small traces of blood. Their blood is scattered lightly around them. They move slowly as I approach. I am certain they can hear my breathing now. I am no longer hiding it. The creature's growl vibrates in my throat.
I pick them apart, searching for the girl. My mind is cloudy as I let the creature take over. It sniffs the air and sends one man through the air.
A splattering of blood on a short blade by the fire attracts the creature's attention. It smells sweet unlike the assertive odor of these men, who have not bathed in weeks. The creature is pleased as it licks the blood from the blade.
I feel the muscles in my arms pulse as I pull the leg of a man nearby and throw him into the darkness. Yes, the creature is very pleased. A howl escapes my lips and I bend my body back as I release it to the sky. There is no other sound around me.
I must pick up her scent. I can't let the creature hurt her. My nose sniffs the air. I turn, taking in the breeze, filling my lungs with the crisp air. Her smell is faint.
I close my eyes and try again. The creature is better at tracking quarry. I lift my head and sniff. High and low, I take in the wind. Her smell is hidden by the forest and the scented flowers.
Opening my eyes, I see the yellow ribbon before me, curving around the trees and leading into the woods. I follow, padding my way along the forest floor. I ease my way over the dried leaves and fallen branches.
But I soon find myself running, chasing the scent. It's close. I can feel her warmth as I run. She's running too. Does she know she's being pursued?
I see her; A billowing cloud of blood red before me. She is young with smooth ivory skin and long, golden hair that cascade down her back in thick spirals. She is quick, but I'm quicker.
The creature is already salivating at the sight of her. I can feel its desires. It wants her. I stop and watch as she pauses to catch her breath. She turns her head like an innocent doe, listening for the slightest signal of a predator.
I crouch down, keeping myself hidden. My heart pounds and my breath quickens. I let out a short, soft growl to appease the creature within.
"Who's there?" she says. Her voice is soft and shaky.
I dart behind a crooked tree and crane my neck to watch her. My eyes narrow as she gazes through the darkness. The creature is entertained, but I can't bear to watch her in distress.
She shuffles through the woods, deeper into the darkness. Her heart is pounding and I hear small whimpering cries between her breaths as she runs away. The poor thing.
I follow her from a distance, hiding behind trees and bushes whenever she stops for a breath or looks behind her. She can't see me. She doesn't have the creature's vision like me. She's merely prey.
Why is a young girl running through the forest so late at night? She must be in some sort of trouble. I can't help but want to know more about her.
"Who's there?" she says, staring directly at me. She looks scared and lost. She looks delicious.
I rise to my feet and take a small step forward, but keep to the shadows. The creature wants to pounce on her and feel her soft ripe skin beneath its claws. It wants to taste her.
"You shouldn't be in the woods so late at night, little girl," I say. My voice is a mix of the man within and the creature that growls and hisses. The combination of the two echoes around the trees and sounds almost inhuman and unrecognizable.
"Who are you?" she asks, taking a step back. Her icy blue eyes widen as she looks for me. "What do you want?"
My throat rumbles and I don't answer her.
"Who are you?" she asks again.
I remain silent, watching her.
She lifts her hood to cover her hair and part of her face before turning and darting through the trees. In her haste, she drops something onto the ground. I wait for her return, but she continues on into the woods.
I find her parcel, an old book, and smell it. It has her scent, but also the lingering smell of something older and powerful. I take it in with both nostrils and the creature recoils, forcing me to drop the book. Opening the book, I take a quick glance into the writings.
The contents are nothing but jibberish works of a blubbering old crone. The paragraphs are nonsense and I can barely make out the map on the front page. The creature wants to throw the book away. I fight the urge and hold it tightly in my hand.
Clutching the book, I sniff the air in the direction the girl ran. Her trail unfurls before my eyes, but I sense she is aimlessly wandering. She's lost.