My blood feels like ice. It’s not so much the Romanian winter as it is the unearthly howl sweeping down the tree line. It echoes within my soul, quickening my burdened heart.
Hurry, my love. Dispatch this beast and return to my arms.
I feel so helpless, so vulnerable. My pacing has worn a trench across the snow-covered vale, the moon’s brilliant rays betraying my every step. I’m not used to being so exposed, but our prey this night prefers defenseless victims. This is where I’m needed.
But what if we’re wrong? What if we’re not supposed to be here at all? We’ve slain vampires, zombies, and demons, but this is different. Holy law binds the damned, and I’ve no problem crushing Satan’s fiends. But this one, he’s human…well, mostly. I’ve never met a more bloodthirsty, ruthless being. To call him human is to degrade God’s dearest creation.
No, this thing is nothing more than an animal. It can’t be allowed to spoil what is sacred any longer.
Another howl. Closer this time.
I stop in my tracks. My hand feels foreign against my chest. I can’t tell which one is burning and which one is already numb. I wish I could make a fire, but the moon’s full and the flames would blind me, not to mention everything burnable is buried beneath a foot of snow. I wish I could at least use my fur coat, but that could ruin everything. Maybe for just a moment…just until—”
“Who’s there?” The voice is as proud and assertive as the knight it belongs to, his shield and scabbard shimmering as he emerges from the shadows.
“Oh, thank the Lord, Sir Knight! You’ve come just in time.”
“Christ above, m’lady! How did you come to be here in…in such an exposed state?”
“The monster. The wolf. He comes this way. I’ve heard him,” I say, collapsing onto the snow before him.
“What you say is true. I’ve tracked him down into this very meadow. That is, until your angelic form diverted mine eyes. Come, take my hand. I will protect—”
Crunching snow. A low growl. Luminous green eyes.
“Stand back, m’lady. It has found us!”
A black shadow streaks across the clearing. Fierce white teeth flash against the knight’s mighty shield. The knight slides backward in the snow but keeps his footing. He rushes forward, his sword gleaming in defiance against the shadow.
Slashing. Tearing. Screaming.
“Desist!” I shout before I can stop myself. “You can’t. We can’t kill him. He too is one of God’s creatures.”
The wolf leaps from his prey and stalks toward me. Behind him, the bewildered knight collapses against a bloodstained snow bank, his chest heaving up and down with desperate breaths. As the wolf approaches, I can see his black, tangled fur begin to blanket the ivory snow. His nose begins to shorten and he stands up on his hind legs. He is so close I can smell the forest on his bare skin. His every feature transforms into that of a man, but his emerald green eyes are unchanging.
“God creet’r?” The man-beast’s warm voice sears my face and neck. Unintelligible at first, deep and coarse, but it smoothes into a confident baritone as he continues. “Woman, you know not what you say. This very evening, your Godly knight has shed a river of blood, beginning at the home of a terrified little girl. When I found her she was huddled between the bodies of her parents, her father butchered and her mother––“
His eyes shift from emerald to black. “No. He may be a man, Natalia, but he is more savage than we ever were. He has chosen to sow evil wherever he goes, just as we have vowed to strike down that evil, no matter the form. Do you deny your oath?”
I don’t bother to answer. My blood warms, my teeth sharpen. I think about that child, how helpless she is, how scared and alone. I no longer feel vulnerable, and all pity for the wicked has burned from my veins. My limbs have newfound strength, and I am atop the knight in two bounds.
His loathsome cries fill the night air, dissonant against the chorus of his avenged victims.