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The Wild Hunt

By J. L. Ender

I tore through the woods, paws churning up soft dirt. The smell of mud and recent rainfall filled my snout as I raced through the bracken, desperate to reach the castle. Her scent was fading quickly. Soon even my powerful senses would be useless.

But I had to keep moving. Please let me be on time.

The castle of Victor Frankenstein II loomed in the middle distance, framed by the mountains. I reverted to human form and took a deep, ragged breath. Cool air filled my lungs. I studied the castle, getting the lay of the land with my sharper human eyes. Satisfied, I dug my bare feet into the soft grass, shifted back to wolf form, and continued on.

The drawbridge was down. I sniffed it carefully, wary of a trap. Below me, a moat dropped into blackness. Dark water that smelled of algae and rotting fish waited far below.

There were no guards. Perhaps no one expected a second werewolf to roam these woods. Their mistake. I padded inside. The stone floor was slick beneath my paws. A wide courtyard revealed four towers ringing a hulking stone keep.

The door to that central building stood ajar.

Sloppy. How can such a brilliant man be this reckless?

I nudged the door open with my snout and peeked inside. They had Clarice stretched out on a table. She was in human form, wearing a simple, white dress. Lovely as ever.

Frankenstein and his assistant labored before a massive machine. On another table lay the prone form of a monster, one of the Frankenstein family’s infamous creations. A third table lay empty.

What are they plotting? Whatever it was, I couldn’t let them finish their hideous experiment. They had to be stopped. Whatever it cost me, I would save her. I had to. The plan depended on it.

I hid in the shadows, debating the right moment to strike. I couldn’t figure out what their giant machine was for, but it didn’t matter.

“What’s this?” a deep voice boomed behind me. I felt impossibly strong arms wrap around my furry chest.

A second monster! He was tall and blue-skinned, with stitches all over his body. The Frankensteins had been busy.

A trap. I ought to have known. The open doors had been too inviting.

Oddly, the monsters had no scent. I hadn’t been able to sense them coming.

I reverted to human and wiggled out of the man’s grasp, then went wolf again and bit down hard onto his wrist. The whole forearm came off in my mouth. Disgusted, I spat it away. There was no blood or gore. The arm wiggled, the fingers pulling the limb toward me.

Frankenstein and his assistant straightened and stared from across the room. Huge goggles obscured their eyes.

“Night-night, doggy.” I barely had time to register a third monster before enormous fists crashed down on my head, and the world went black.


“He ripped off my arm!” a gruff voice whined, waking me.

“I know, my friend,” Frankenstein said gently. “We’ll fix it, you’ll see.”

I opened my eyes. I’d been strapped to the empty table. Clarice lay beside me, studying me with stormy gray eyes.

“Hello, gorgeous,” I said and winced. My head throbbed.

Frankenstein loomed above me, a bug-eyed devil with those goggles of his.

“His monsters require a soul to come to life,” Clarice called. “We’re the battery.”

“And quite the battery!” Frankenstein spoke in a clipped, yet excited tone. “I look forward to seeing what a pair of werewolves bring to the table. Do you know how you got the virus?”

“It’s not a virus,” I replied, though I wasn’t about to tell him how we’d rescued a witch and been given our abilities as a reward. I forced a big grin. “Story for another time. I’ll give you one chance to let us go. We can still end this peacefully. Let us go, and we won’t harm you.”

“Harm me?” Frankenstein laughed. His assistant guffawed. “You’re bound. You have no hope of escape.”

I sighed. “I tried. I really tried.”

“You did.” Frankenstein patted my shoulder sympathetically. “What are your last words? Choose carefully, for posterity. I will record them.”

I grinned. “Who said I was just a werewolf?”

“What?”

Green scales emerged from my skin as my body grew serpentine. I transformed into a long, slender dragon and wriggled easily from my bonds.

“A dragon!” Frankenstein cried. “He’s tricked us!”

Fire dribbled from my jaws as I stood on my table. I winked at Clarice. She transformed into a sapphire dragon and escaped her own bonds. Her capture had been part of the plan. Mine, on the other hand…

Two of the monsters converged. We exhaled fire all over them, but their blue skin seemed impervious, and they kept coming. Frankenstein and his assistant retreated. The machine caught fire. An acrid scent filled the air. Good, let it all burn.

One of the monsters swiped roughly at me. I shied away and stretched my leathery wings, taking to the sky. Clarice flapped at my side, and we made for the doors.

Another monster waited for us. I turned my head to the side and slammed into him full force with my shoulder. Clarice dropped to the stone floor, turned from dragon to human, then shifted to wolf form and leapt, knocking the door open. We burst into the outside world.

The air smelled fresh and clean. Smoke and heat broiled behind us. I dropped to the ground and turned back to human, then into wolf. The dragon form was exhausting and strange. I couldn’t maintain it for long.

Fire and ruin behind us, we raced into the cool darkness of the woods, exhilarating in the wild freedom of the night. Another successful mission. I put my nose to the ground, ready to sniff out the next wild hunt.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. L. Ender is the author of the superhero series Steel Fox Investigations, as well as a number of novels and short stories across several genres. Ender has worked as a dishwasher, a beef jerky labeler, a warehouse worker, a shelf stocker, a greeter, a traveling technician, a laser engraver, a package handler, a copywriter, a graphic designer, a librarian, an editor, destroyer of worlds (in an unofficial capacity), a dispatcher, and a phone operator.


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