True Night

A small stream ran through the woods, trickling over stones and sliding around branches. Tiny fish scuttled about in its crystalline waters. The woods were dense and shadowy, packed full of secrets, the ancient guardians of the forest hunched over and crowding close together to drive off the light. It was always semi-dusk within the forest. The occasional trill of a bird broke the silence, but the ancient forest valued peace, and few sounds were heard. Two figures were resting by the stream, one laying on the mossy bank, fingers dangling in the water, the other crouched on a fallen tree. It was a boy and a girl, both suspended between being children and being adults. The girl was the one laying, watching the water ebb around her hand. She had intent brown eyes and dark brown hair with framed her delicate features. The boy was watching her, a strand of blond hair hanging over his blue eyes and accenting a sharply profiled face. He had a fierce, protective look on his face. The girl looked up at the trees watching them, silently, then down at the water, her face creased with a sudden thought.

"Is your brother jealous," she asked of the boy in a lilting voice.

The boy looked startled for a second, then laughed. The silent trees gave a whisper, as if angered by this rude sound intruding on their solitude.

"No, of course not Sarie. He's too busy mooning over Phari, he probably doesn't even know we're engaged."

The girl appeared satisfied, for she shook the water off her hand and rolled on her side to face the boy.

"It's weird, isn't it?" she murmured. "Me, you, married."

He nodded his agreement, and the silence closed in over the two.

They stayed by the stream until dusk, then parted with fond words and kisses. The boy returned to his small house, windows glowing in the dark night. His father was already home from the market, and dinner was ready. The family sat at the rough wooden table and ate, his younger brother strangely silent. Afterwards, the two brothers retreated to the loft where they slept. The boy watched his younger brother for a second, marveling as he always did at how alike the two looked, than spoke.

"Farius, you aren't upset that I'm getting married, are you?"

The younger boy paused, looking slightly puzzled.

"No, of course not. What makes you think that?"

"Well, you've been awfully quiet lately. Is it something with Phari?

Farius shook his head.

"No, it's nothing, really, I'll be fine."

The older brother shrugged and climbed into bed.

"Just let me know if you ever need help on anything, okay?" he said sleepily.

"Sure."

Farius got into bed and blew out the candle.

"Gerialt?"

"hmm?"

"I'm glad for you and Sarie. I truly am."

The day's work was over, and Gerialt was about to go meet Sarie, and Farius to Phari. The day had been slightly overcast, but the clouds had vanished and the sun shone merrily in its last few hours before night ruled the heavens. The boys were about to the gate when their father stopped them.

"I want you two to be careful," he said gruffly. "There's been strange stuff going on, the wildlife acting strange, livestock torn to shreds and stuff. Folks reckon that some animal is doing it, and I want you to watch yourselves, got it?"

The boys nodded and assured they would be careful, and started off down the dirt road. The brothers parted and Gerialt hurried to Sarie's house. She was waiting for him at the rough wooden fence. The two laughed and talked, then strolled into the forest. Gerialt thought of his father's warning, but shrugged it off with the confident heedlessness of youth. Night was coming, and the dim outline of a full moon was appearing in the darkening sky.

Rage. Hunger. Blood. The beast moaned and rolled on the floor of the forest, fighting the call of blood. The moon shone overhead, calling to it, filling it with the desire to rip, to tear, to kill. A spark of human intelligence within the creature fought the call, desperate to retain humanity. As the beast fought, a song grew around it, eerie and alien. It screamed a challenge to the moon, fighting the growing bloodlust. The song filled its ears, filled its being. The beast stopped still, then raised its head. Its eyes glowed red, its teeth gleamed from its bared snarl. Rage. Hunger. Want. Need. Tear. Kill. Blood! The human spark inside screamed in fear as all vestiges of human fled. The beast echoed a howl of triumph to the leering moon, and bounded off into the forest. Blood was on the air.

Sarie and Gerialt had wondered along familiar paths until the sun set and the moon rose. Even then, the light from the moon was enough to light their path. However, when a bone chilling howl arose from the depths of the forest, Sarie gasped in fear and grabbed Gerialt's arm.

"We've got to get back," she said fearfully.

"Yeah, let's go," Gerialt said, and the two hurried back along the path. Sarie tripped over a branch and fell with a stifled shriek and Gerialt stopped to help her up. The forest was silent, as it always was. The two started back down the path again, going a little slower to avoid falling in the treacherous light.

"We shouldn't have stayed out so long," Sarie said in a whisper.

Gerialt nodded grimly.

"We'll be fine. Your house isn't too far."

The beast watched the two humans. Something was holding it back. It snarled soundlessly in rage. Need was swamping it's mind. It could smell the blood, could almost taste it, could see it pouring out of the torn and mangled bodies. But it was being held back. It knew it shouldn't kill these two. But the need! It wrestled with itself. But the craving was too strong, the light of the moon too strong, the song in it's ears too fierce. It would kill. And it would feed.

Gerialt froze with a sudden chill. He had seen something, the gleam of red eyes. Sarie was by his side, breath coming in short gasps. A twig snapped. The two jumped. But there was nothing.

"Com'n, let's keep," Gerialt said, taking her hand. She nodded and started to follow. Then she screamed. A huge shape flew at the two, shaggy and shaped like a wolf. But it was not a wolf, it was too big, and too...evil. Gerialt screamed in helpless fear as the monster fell upon Sarie, ripping with its monstrous fangs. Gerialt fell to the ground with a despairing cry as the creature jerked and tore, blood spilling out and staining Sarie's luxurious hair red. Gerialt desperately grasped for something, anything, he could use as a weapon. His hand closed upon a twisted stick of wood, study and jagged at one end. He staggered in to his feet, breath coming in short gasps, and the fire of vengeance burning in his heart. The beast raised its head, it's muzzle dripping red. The blood continued to flow, pouring out onto the ground, staining the dirt with Sarie's lifeblood. The creature took two steps forward, eyes shining with pleasure. Gerialt braced the wood against one foot, and the creature leaped. The creature jumped over him, and Gerialt spun in surprise, in time for the massive creature to slam into him. He was driven into the ground, and cried in pain as its claws dug at his skin. Hot blood soaked his clothes. Gerialt struggled with the beast, then stopped in surprise as the light in its eyes faded and vanished. With a massive effort, he heaved the creature off him and onto its side. The jagged end of his makeshift weapon had somehow found the creatures heart. He stood there panting, his mind numb with rage and pain mingled into the tears he cried, blending with the sweat and blood on his face. As he watched, the creature was changing. The fur vanished, the limbs straightened. A werewolf, Gerialt thought numbly. The transformation was complete. Gerialt stared, then collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain, shattering the stillness of the forest, and rocking back and forth, head in his hands. For on the ground lay his younger brother.