Of Darkness and Moonlight
This is another story about Werdeth. It
represents about the third iteration of his
abilities. It was written mainly as a way of
exploring what sort of supernatural powers I
would want (if supernatural powers were
available), and if I ever do manage to sit down
and write a Werdeth book, the events of this
story won't be part of it. Still, it's kind of
fun - and it's an interesting piece of juvenalia.
It was dark when he came to her window,
attracted by the light of the candles at her
desk. She glimpsed him briefly perched in the
branches of the tree outside her second floor
window, when she rose to refill her glass of
water, and his eyes glittered, burning in the
light of the candles. He was gone when she
returned, but she made a note about him in her
journal before retiring into her bed.
She was a curious young woman, who had come
from the city to live with her uncle, following
the death of both her parents in an auto
accident. The neighbors thought her odd, but
attributed the dreamy quality of her looks and
actions to the recent loss of her family. In
truth, however she had been quiet and indrawn
since childhood, her thoughts and dreams and
emotions always contained within her, and she
was possessed of a kind of quiet strength, which
most people never noticed. Her neighbors, the
folk of the small town in which her uncle lived,
did notice her, despite her apparent shyness:
they commented to each other on the curious
magnetism which she occasionally exhibited, the
force of personality which she sometimes brought
to bear on others, often almost by accident. The
intensity of her gaze, when she lifted it from
the ground to focus it on some one or thing, had
an almost hypnotic quality to it.
She had done very well in school, combining
intelligence and cleverness with a kind of dry
wit which her teachers enjoyed; and she had
looked forward to college as a further source of
intellectual stimulation. She had only a few
close friends, but was reasonably welcome in
almost any social circle she cared to visit;
however, by the same token she had never felt
especially a part of any such group. Her friends
her close friends were drawn from the loners
and outcasts of the school, and during lunch
they would sit by themselves away from the
others, discussing their own curious and arcane
She had left them behind in her move out of
the city, and had not really troubled to make
friends among her new classmates. She ate by
herself, and her thoughts were her own. She read
much, and thought much, and was largely happy
with this state of affairs. When school was
ended each day, she walked back to her uncle's
house by herself.
Her uncle was a pleasant man, unwilling to
intrude on her privacy or violate her need for
space. He showed her the paths that led through
the forest around the town, and turned her loose
to explore them; sometimes, on weekends, he
drove her out to the national park, where she
would explore while he finished up his paper
work. (He was a geology professor, and when he
had no work to finish and no papers to grade he
would explore with her, pointing out the reasons
why the landscape held the shape it did.)
His nightly visits continued for several
weeks, though she pretended never to notice him.
Once she left her window open when she went to
bed, and awoke briefly to see the dark shape
lurking, crouched on the edge of the window. In
the morning there were claw marks on the window
ledge, and she made a note of this also.
She had thought at first that he might be one of
the local boys, from either the college or her
high school; the thought of one such watching
her had not disturbed her unduly. But as the
first week passed, the light from the candles
had on two occasions caught his eyes, making
them shine like a cat's. Likewise, by the second
such occasion she was convinced that the pupils
were slit vertically, also like a cat's.
She wondered if perhaps some local animal
might be visiting her then, for some unknowable
reason of its own, but her uncle assured her
that there were no local animals that large,
with the exception of a couple of the
neighborhood dogs. Had she told him then where
she thought she had glimpsed such a creature, he
might have waited up with her to see it; but she
did not, so he supposed that it had been while
walking in the woods. Meanwhile, she looked up
Cats in an encyclopedia, and discovered that no
known species of great cat had that sort of
eyes, which belonged only to the smaller
It crossed her mind then that someone might
be transforming him or herself into a large
animal, in defiance of natural law and modern
science; for she was dreamy, and there was room
for magic in her inner world. However, there
were other possible explanations, and she also
wondered if perhaps this were some new species,
some rare species, or some new mutation of a
species. Then too, some of her reading had
included science fiction; and she wondered if
perhaps this were a genetically engineered
creature, escaped from some laboratory
At the end of the second week, she took some
hamburger from the refrigerator, and used an old
broomstick to set it out on the tree, on a
branch near where the beast often sat. She had
considered using a ladder, but feared that her
scent would alarm the creature. She left the
window open as she wrote, and after a time she
extinguished both candles and sat looking out
the window and into the darkness.
As her eyes adjusted to the sudden darkness,
she began to make out his shape. Then, as if
sensing her desire, the beast moved out along
the branch, nearing her window, and paused with
its right shoulder exposed in the moonlight. She
caught a glimpse of black fur, striped with
silver; of a single paw, claws curled around the
branch; and of a feline head, delicately boned,
its whiskers twitching as it sniffed the air.
Then her uncle knocked on the door behind
her, and she turned to look at the sudden
distraction, and when she glanced back the
creature was gone.
* * *
He had been drawn by the light in her window,
for she used candles in world powered by
electricity. He had seen her there, writing, as
he himself had often done, and sensed a kind of
kinship with her. He had often passed through
the town at night, looking in on a world he had
no place in, and reminding himself of his
solitude. Had he ever found a pack to hunt with,
he might never have returned, even after he
* * *
Mike, one of the downstairs lodgers, was
cooking chicken for a couple of his guests, and
had sent her uncle to ask if she was hungry. She
found that she was, and went downstairs to eat.
There was no sign of the creature when she
returned to her bed that night.
She put some hamburger out for several days
after that, but each night it remained uneaten,
despite the beast's constant presence. Finally,
she gave up on the meat, and instead put out
both candles early and sat on the ledge of her
open window. She had only a short wait, but she
never saw it arrive.
Something distracted her she could never
remember what, afterwards; she just seemed to
drift off into her thoughts and then there was a
sensation like awakening from a dream, when it
takes a minute for reality to separate itself
from unreality, and the creature was sitting on
a limb, not ten feet away, staring at her.
She looked at it for a moment, startled; then
she frowned slightly, studying it, following the
delicate curve of the skull down into the
lithely muscular shoulders, the graceful curve
of its back, to where the tail twitched
slightly, back and forth. It was definitely some
sort of cat, black furred, but with a curious
silver striping running through it, and it gave
an impression of fluid, graceful power.
She paused then, drawing back into her room,
and stood waiting just inside the window.
"Can you understand me?" she asked. "Come
There came again the sudden moment of
distraction, the blurring of her mind, and this
time she realized that it was deliberate, that
the beast was somehow doing this to her. When
she looked again, she saw that the creature had
crossed to her window ledge, and now gripped the
sill with fingers that were almost human,
despite the fur covering them and claws at their
tips. Its build had altered dramatically: it had
become humanoid, with broad shoulders and narrow
hips; yet it retained the feline skull, the fur,
and the curious, curious striping pattern. Its
tail still flicked back forth behind it. Then
too, it retained its small, almost delicate
build, its lean feline grace, and the impression
of lithe, formidable power. She could also now
see (she blushed slightly) that it was male.
It crossed the floor silently, until it stood
before her. It was only barely larger than she
herself was, and it had a strange, almost musky
odor about it. It occurred to her that she ought
to be frightened, but her fascination overruled
all fear. It reached up slowly, its movements
precise and careful, and traced the line of her
jaw with one clawed finger. Then it backed away,
pausing uncertainly at the window for a moment.
There came another moment of distraction, and he
He did not enter her room again, though
occasionally he would move to her window sill.
After a week of this, she went outside to wait
for him, and he surprised her by padding up on
all fours, and taking a bit of the meat she
offered him. She asked again if he could
understand her, but he did not answer.
It was perhaps a week later when Tim asked
her out. He was from the college, charming and
persuasive and handsome. He was also athletic,
friendly, and warmly attentive, and only a
couple of years older than she was. Though she
did not know it, his attentions made her the
envy of a number of her classmates.
He took her out to eat that Friday night,
then back to his dormitory to watch a movie. He
offered to mix her a drink, but she refused; and
after the movie was over, he walked her home.
she made a brief note of the evening in her
journal, and left the window open when she went
to bed. She dreamed that night that the beast
had entered the room, had stroked her cheek with
the back of his hand; in the morning, she wasn't
* * *
As he made his way carefully back to his
lair, he noted that the pack had expanded their
territory again. This was of no real interest to
him, so long as they tolerated his presence
within their realm, but he also knew that the
same reasons which were likely to cause such
expansion were also likely to make them less
tolerant of his intrusions. He slowed, extending
his senses as he moved, but they were nowhere
nearby. He passed into the cave without
disturbing the bats, and settled into one of the
rearmost chambers. His breath steamed in the
chill air of the cave, but his fur kept him
warm. Tired, he curled up on the floor and
* * *
Tim took her out again the next Friday, and
again that Saturday. On Monday, a rose was
waiting for her when she arrived home from
school. Tim stopped by to visit on Tuesday, and
again on Thursday. He was always polite, always
listened to her and encouraged her to speak. She
was flattered by his interest, though she felt
he had little in common with her.
Then, on Friday, he drove her out into the
woods, following one of the fire lanes until it
ended. They walked from there to the edge of the
cliff, and sat down to watch the sun set. When
the sun had sunk below the horizon and its fire
touched only the tips of the trees around them,
he leaned over to kiss her. She yielded,
enjoying it at first; but she became alarmed
when he began trying to undress her. He ignored
her when she told him to stop, and continued
working at her belt. She screamed, though they
were too far from the town for anyone to hear.
He had her pinned, and held her there with his
weight as he worked to undo her clothing. She
began to struggle silently.
Then, as he tried to wrench her jeans down,
he saw her face relax. She was looking over his
shoulder, eyes wide; then her expression
hardened, and she smiled at him, a chilling,
predatory grin. Startled, he paused.
The beast had come; she realized suddenly
that it had probably been watching them all
along. She saw it drop from the trees, then rise
up humanoid behind Tim, all delicate grace and
silence. She felt herself relax, suddenly
secure; then the beast transformed again.
It went from a slim, small build to something
much larger, massive; she saw the black and
silver fur turn a dark red, half copper, half
blood in color; she saw him change from five
foot eight to eight foot six; she saw his mass
virtually double, as his slender form became
huge, thick and broad and layered in muscle; she
saw the size of his claws and teeth. Yet the
change took barely an instant; it happened so
fast that she felt the rush of air from it on
her cheek. When the beast grabbed Tim, lifting
him off of her by the throat, she saw that its
fingers met on the other side of his neck. It
held him there, choking and gasping, two feet
above the ground; it held him there with one
hand, while it pulled the other back, claws out.
In another moment it would have driven its
fingers and perhaps it hand as well clear
"Don't!" she gasped, and the beast turned to
look at her quizzically. Tim, apparently
forgotten by the beast for a moment, was rapidly
turning blue from lack of oxygen; his struggles
were getting weaker.
"Don't," she repeated more softly, regaining
her feet. The beast studied her indifferently;
then, with a casual gesture, flung Tim a dozen
feet away. He landed on his back, gasping in
air, then turned away and vomited. She
approached the beast carefully, and he studied
the determination in her features. She was dark
skinned and black haired, with fine, high
cheekbones, and there was a murderous look in
"I want him," she said. "He's mine."
The beast seemed hesitant, his hands flexing
with thwarted rage, a small growl rising in his
chest. Ignoring him, she went to Tim, removing a
small knife from the pocket of her jeans. He
started to struggle, but the beast grabbed his
hands and lifted him into the air. At her
direction, the beast carried him into the
forest, where she removed his belt ignoring the
smell and the stain in his pants and used it to
tie his hands together, behind him, on the
opposite side of a tree. Desperately, eyes
glazed, he tried to kick at her, so she struck
him in the crotch. He gagged, tried to double
She almost killed him. She almost took the
knife and drove it into him, but she thought
about it too long. Instead, she took the knife
and used the point to carve an "R" on his
forehead, watching with clinical detachment as
the blood ran down his face. Then, just to make
sure, she opened his shirt and carved "RAPIST"
on his chest. Then she slapped him, hard, and
wiped the blood from his eyes. He looked up at
her, eyes pleading.
"I should kill you," she said calmly. The
beast was nowhere in sight. "Or perhaps cut your
dick off." She studied him. Then she turned
away, and left him there. On the way back, she
knifed one of his tires in a fit of pique;
thirty feet down the road, she was overcome by a
fit of shaking, and dropped to her knees in the
The beast, now returned to his smaller, more
delicate form, emerged from the trees as she lay
there. She was shivering uncontrollably, and he
picked her up and began to carry her back. It
was only later that she realized that, despite
his diminutive form, his grip was like steel. He
carried her as if she weighed nothing, moving
lightly and silently through the forest. Her
shivering began to subside, and by the time they
entered the town she could walk again.
He left her at the edge of town, vanishing
like smoke among the trees.
* * *
Tim struggled for almost two hours before he
worked loose from the tree. The blood on his
forehead had dried to a thick brown crust, the
letters in his skin had all scabbed over, and
the stain in his pants was starting to dry. He
staggered out to the car, picking his way by the
dim light of a sickle moon, and didn't realize
his tire was flat until he'd driven a hundred
yards. The prospect of changing it nearly
defeated him, but he managed it in an exhausted,
Chief among his fears was that the monster,
whatever it had been, might return, and finish
what it had started. He kept looking around him
as he worked, but he was half blind in the
darkness and could see nothing. When he had
finished, he climbed back into the blazer and
drove as fast as he dared back towards town.
As he emerged from the trees, another fear
began to creep over him. With dawning certainty,
he realized that she would doubtless go to the
police about him; they might be looking for him
already. And he certainly couldn't go to the
health center with "Rapist" carved on his chest.
Still driving too fast, he turned onto the
highway out of town, heading down the mountain
to one of the other nearby hospitals.
The road twisted and turned as it went down
the mountain, and he took the curves as fast as
he dared, trying to blot out the memory of that
creature with speed and concentration. Then,
with sudden and unaccountable certainty, he knew
that he was being watched. It was out there,
somewhere, watching him run, and it wanted him.
Suddenly frightened, he sped up a bit more,
until his tires squealed going around the
corners, and he was in danger of sliding
sideways off the road.
Slowly, the feeling passed. He began to
wonder if he had escaped; then he began to
wonder if he had imagined it. It was ridiculous,
after all. No creature could keep up with a
moving car, not for any length of time. Not even
something like that. He shuddered at the memory.
Then he saw a shadow detach itself from the
trees ahead, leaping towards him in a graceful
arc. He tried to swerve, but the creature landed
on the hood, snarling at him. He could feel its
malice. It leapt away again almost immediately,
as the car turned sideways and over, began
rolling downhill at seventy miles per hour.
The beast watched with satisfaction as the
car smashed into the trees and began to burn. It
exploded an instant later, scattering fire among
the trees, and an instant's concern touched the
beast. He did not want the woods to burn.
But the leaves were still wet from a recent
rain, and the fire did not seem to be spreading.
Another car, coming up the mountain, slowed as
it passed the wreckage; then it sped away. A few
minutes later, he heard the approaching sirens.
Confident of their ability to deal with it, he
* * *
When she reached her uncle's house, she drew
a hot bath and settled into it, letting her body
relax. The evening's tensions faded slightly,
and exhaustion began to seep in. Rising, she
dried herself and returned to her room. The rush
of events returned to her as she sought to
capture its quality in her journal, but faded as
she prepared for sleep.
Her uncle asked her about Tim the next day,
and explained that he had been killed in a wreck
while driving down the mountain. There was no
evidence of drinking, though he had clearly been
speeding. She shook her head and did her best to
look stunned; her uncle, sympathetic to the loss
of her parents, changed the subject. She had
never once considered going to the police; nor
did it occur to her that the beast might have
had any connection with the accident.
When the beast came to her window that night
she thanked him, for she was certain now that he
understood her words. She began to wear black
after that, and quit tying her hair back.
The townspeople attributed it to grief,
thinking that she was finally adjusting to the
loss of her parents by mourning them. She became
even more quiet and indrawn, and began to study
self defense. At the same time, however, she
became heavily involved in the local outing
club, going on hikes and into caves, learning to
climb rocks and guide a canoe. She took up
kayaking as well, and the enthusiasm with which
she threw herself at these activities astonished
everyone. Yet she made no real friends,
preferring to read as she rode in the Outing
Club van. Her grades in school remained good,
though she put no real effort into them, but she
made no real friends there, either.
Then one night she looked up from her journal
to see the beast standing behind her, slightly
off to one side, and looking down at the
journal. She pushed her chair back and rose, and
he moved past her, one finger absently stroking
the edge of the paper as he studied the book. He
moved away from it, looked again into her eyes.
Then he took a deep breath and released it, and
the change began, his flesh melting and flowing
like wax in a flame. The fur melted away, and
the skull changed its shape; the claws and tail
were absorbed, and the pupils of his eyes became
round. He stood before her, naked, but
completely human to all appearances. His skin
was as dark as hers, but where her hair was
black, his was a dark, dark brown, tinged with
auburn in the candlelight. Dark eyes burned into
hers, and she gasped.
She stared at him for a long, long time.
Magic, she thought, has to be. Nothing else
would work, to exist in such defiance of natural
laws. The evidence was before her, irrefutable,
the thing she had always longed for but never
dared to believe in.
"Do you speak, then?" she asked finally.
"I... Can," he replied slowly. "It has
been... A long, long time."
She studied him for a time, aghast at this
latest transformation. Then she crossed to her
closet and fetched him a robe.
"In case my uncle comes up."
"He'll never see me," he replied, ignoring
the robe. His eyes followed her around the room,
studying her slim, elfin figure. "May I read
your journal?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Not yet, please. I...
It's very personal."
He nodded, and she noticed suddenly that his
hand was trembling. He was scared, she realized,
and the realization shocked her. Then she
realized that she too was shaking, was scared
no, terrified. But it was he who had come to
her, who had mastered his fear and entered her
world, though he trembled on the verge of flight
"You... Must have questions..." he said,
"They'll wait," she said then. "Let me get
you some clothing. I'll bring it to you, out on
the north point, at darkfall."
He nodded again, and she admired his self
control. "Until then," he said. There was a
momentary blurring of her mind, and he was gone
again. She shook her head, wishing she could
duplicate that trick.
* * *
When she met him at the edge of the cliff,
darkness was almost upon them. She noted with
pleasure that he could move around in the
daylight, though little of it remained. He
emerged from the trees the moment she arrived,
and she handed him the bundle of clothing that
she had purchased that afternoon at an army
surplus store. He accepted the clothing and
dressed himself, then moved off into the trees.
He returned with a package, a pair of old
"It's my turn," he said, offering the books
to her. "Take these, read them. I'll come to you
again when you're finished."
"What are they?"
"My journals. I buried them after the change.
Read them, if you like. They'll tell you... What
* * *
She read through the night, collapsing into
bed shortly after dawn. She took them to school
with her, compiling a brief list notes from them
through the day. She napped through the
afternoon, but rose in time for dinner. Later,
she copied her notes into her journal, with a
note to the effect that she intended to let him
read them if he still wished. When he came in
that night, she had the journal open still,
though she was sitting in the dark. She gave it
to him, and he departed with it. When she awoke
the next morning it had been returned to her
Over the next couple of weeks, she began to
be seen around town with the dark haired young
man. This attracted more attention than it might
have, for two reasons: first was that no one
knew the young man, or could recall having seen
him before; the second was that because they
spent no time with anyone else, and were only
rarely glimpsed together, no one had the
opportunity to question them. When pressed by
the townspeople, she claimed that he was an art
major from the college; when pressed by her
uncle, she claimed that he was a local. She
never brought him around or introduced him to
anyone; however, he joined her for activities
with the outing club, where he displayed an
unnatural aptitude for almost any physical
It was around this time when she invited him
into her bed, explaining simply that she was
curious about what sex was like. He had cocked
his head to the side, thoughtfully, before
explaining that he would not be bound to anyone
or anything. She had nodded dismissively; she
already knew that, and wanted nothing of the
sort. Gently then, carefully, by slow degrees
they became lovers.
Then, suddenly, he vanished. One night he
simply failed to show up, and was not seen for
over a week. She was sad at first, then worried;
for there had been nothing to warn her of this
turn of events. She considered going out into
the woods to look for him, but it was raining
constantly that week.
* * *
The storm came together around the town, dark
and unnatural, and he knew that it was the
pack's doing. Suspecting that they had finally
tired of his presence, he kept to his den and
did his hunting as close by as possible. The
rains continued for most of a week before they
came, however; they intended to wear him down
before the attack.
A premonition awoke him, and he knew the time
had come. He could feel them gathering around
him, somewhere nearby. He heightened his senses,
concentrating on his surroundings so that they
couldn't take him by surprise, and he saw three
of them as they emerged from the cover of the
forest around him. With the instincts of pack
hunters, they divided and approached him from
three angles. He dared not turn and run, for
fear they would catch him from behind, so he
stood and waited for their rush.
The first two came in together, their timing
perfect and thoughtless, a matter of pure
instinct. He leapt and twisted, trying to come
over them, and only one leapt to meet him. He
transformed in midair, slammed into the other
with the full mass of his largest form. They
were small and light, and he felt its bones
break when he landed atop it. The other two came
at him simultaneously, one from ahead of him,
the other from behind.
They were smaller and lighter than he was
now, though they lacked the raw strength and
power of his Rage form, and they were faster. If
they got onto him, he would not be able to shake
them off before their claws cut him to shreds.
So he waited, controlling the urge to attack,
until the one from ahead leapt.
He stepped into the path of its leap, one
hand smashing out, and caught the creature by
the throat. He felt the other one rake its claws
down his back, opening deep wounds, but it
lacked the strength and mass to move him. He
twisted with his hands, trying to wrench the
creature's head free, as the other one gouged
Then the one he held transformed, growing as
large as he and shaking free of his grip. He
stumbled back, dropping into his smaller, four
legged feline form. The change got him free of
his second opponent, who landed lithely on its
feet beside him. He leapt straight up then, as a
blow from the massive one tore the ground
beneath him, and he clawed at its eyes as he
came down. It looked up at him just as he struck
a stroke of pure good luck, he knew and
staggered back with blood flowing from its eye
The smaller one leapt into him as he struck,
and they struck the ground together, twisting
and slashing at each other with the desperate
speed of a catfight. He felt a deep gouge open
in his left forelimb, another scrape down across
the front of his chest, sliding off ribs. Then
his opponent jumped back, barely dodging a swipe
that would have spilled its guts. They circled,
closing the distance between them; then his
opponent leapt at him.
He came in under it, as low as he could
manage, and caught hold of one ankle. With a
snarl, he swung the creature into a nearby tree,
then brought his free hand down, using his claws
to hamstring the ankle he held. Its other foot
came up, cutting deep into his thigh and
brushing his face with its claws, but he kept
his grip and flung the creature away. It rolled
as it landed, tried to come up in a crouch, and
he looked around for a weapon. Nothing presented
itself, so he approached it cautiously. It
crouched, supporting itself on one rear leg and
both forelegs; then leapt at him, surprising
him. It changed to a larger form in the air,
intending to crush him, but he rolled aside and
opened its belly with his claws. It struck him
with one hand as its guts spilled forth; the
blow hurled him twenty feet away.
He staggered to his feet as that beast
collapsed; then broke off a large limb for the
purposes of dispatching the one he had blinded.
It spoke as he approached it, sensing his
presence, it voice half a modulated growl from
his throat, half an intrusion into his thoughts.
"You're a fool," it told him. "You think we
don't know about her?"
Its flesh was tough, and it took him three
blows to open its skull. The final blow split
the log he had used. Moving quickly, he beheaded
the corpses to prevent them from returning;
then, numb with shock and fatigue, he leaned
against a tree.
* * *
She was crossing the street when she saw him,
a dark shadow beckoning from beside one of the
dormitories. She had been looking for art
supplies with one of the girls from her school,
but excused herself and hurried across the
street. The other girl hesitated for a moment,
watching as she hurried into the shadows beside
When she found him he lacked the strength to
maintain or even resume a human form. While she
had long since become accustomed to his bestial
appearance, even made love to him in that form,
she doubted that the townsfolk would feel the
same. By the same token, she could hardly take
him to the hospital; they'd sooner dissect him
than mend him. He looked at her, whispered the
name of one of the national parks. She nodded,
and moved away.
Her schoolmate caught up with her as she hurried
up the street, and asked what had happened.
Barely slowing, she replied that a friend of
hers was in trouble. The girl asked if she could
help, but was refused. With a shrug, she slowed
and dropped behind.
Her uncle was willing to let her borrow the
car, so she threw a sleeping bag and his clothes
in the back and drove back to him. She had
worried that he would bleed on her uncle's car,
but to her surprise his wounds had already
closed over. She wondered again at his
metabolism, given the incredible amounts of food
he consumed, and wondered how quickly he might
heal. The wounds were deep, and he had lost a
great deal of blood, but he seemed to be
recovering rapidly. She decided that if he
survived the night, he would recover.
...Unless something unexpected happened to
worsen his condition. As she drove them down the
mountain, a fierce howl resounded, ringing in
through the open windows and in their minds as
well. The sound died slowly, many voices fading
into one; the final voice held its cry for a
long, long time.
"What was that?" she asked him.
"The alpha," he said softly.
"What?" she asked, not certain that she'd
heard him clearly.
"Pack leader," he said then. "Drive quickly,
they were well behind us. Probably just found
the bodies." Fear had lent him new strength, and
he straightened in the seat. "Three of them
attacked me earlier. Population pressure, I
assume. I killed them."
"So now the others are after us," she said.
He shook his head. "Doubtful. If we can stay
clear of them for a time, they will likely
He lapsed into silence again, sinking down in
the seat beside her, his breathing ragged and
uneven. She drove quickly, finding her way
easily through the darkness, and parked the car
a little ways up the road. He leaned heavily
against he as they made their way into the
woods, traveling until they were far enough in
that they would not be disturbed.
"Should I build a fire?" she asked when they
He shrugged. "If they find us now we are dead
in any case, and we need the warmth." In his
natural, feline form, his throat was not suited
to speech; instead, he shaped the thoughts and
sent them to her directly.
She hesitated for a moment, then asked a
thing which had been in her mind since they had
met. "Can you make me as you are?"
He hesitated, then nodded. "If I have the
strength, I can. But the change is... More than
you realize, perhaps. It will give you a
hunter's instincts... It will alter your body
permanently, both in shape and in metabolism...
It may alter your perceptions as well. You will
no longer be truly human... On any level."
She nodded. "But I could defend you, then."
He shook his head. "Should the pack come for
us, there is no way you can hold them off. But I
will change you, if you wish... If I can.
Because it might allow you to escape them."
He sat back, leaning against a tree, and took
a deep breath. Still speaking with his mind, he
continued: "But if you wish to remain at all
human, and survive, then you should leave now,
leave the state for a week or so."
Now she shook her head. "What humanity would
I be leaving behind? My kinship to those narrow
minded idiots at school? Or to the college
students, perhaps? Ninety percent of them do
nothing but study all week and drink all
weekend, and the other ten percent are all
identical in their individualism."
He chuckled, stopping quickly when the
movement set fire to his wounds. Then he sobered
again. "But you don't understand the scope of
this power. The same dark flower that makes me a
beast might make another a vampire, or a ghost,
or a warlock. It is a matter of personal
inclination and the whims of the power, how it
transforms a person."
"But it shapes itself to your desires," she
"Somewhat. But there is no way to predict
what the end result will be..."
"You were like me, once Ive read your
journals, and I know and you enjoy your
"It is not so simple. In becoming what I am,
I lost many of the things which made me desire
to be so. I have changed to such an extent that
I no longer really recall the acute desire that
brought me to these changes. If I change you,
you will no longer be the person you are now."
She shrugged. Since she could not bring
herself to conceive of such a change on anything
more than an intellectual level, she chose to
ignore it as a consideration. "If you can effect
the change, I am ready for it."
With a sudden, brisk nod he forced himself to
his feet. She caught a sudden flare within his
eyes, like firelight reflected save that they
had no fire to reflect. Then his body flickered
and began to burn, a dark cool flame that
enveloped him and swirled around him, caressing
him. Bestial, half hidden by the shadowy pyre,
he offered her his hand in an almost courtly
gesture, and she took it.
She felt the flames touch her, cool and
velvety, questing exploring. They permeated her
body first, feeling their way through her and
out to her extremities, bringing with them a
sense of incredible vitality and power; then she
became aware of their presence within her mind,
as the power began to explore her sense of self.
Suddenly, she felt it take root, there in the
dark center of herself, like a darkly burning
flower; it held her insulated as her body
metamorphosed, so that she felt no pain in being
Like his, hers was a bestial form, slender
and deceptively delicate in appearance. She
continued to burn, the change running its
course, spreading from muscle and bone into the
more subtle systems of her body: immune system,
metabolism, endocrine system, nervous system...
As she awakened to her new senses, she marveled
at their clarity and sensitivity, marveled too
at the easy strength and speed of her body.
Consumed by the flames, her clothing fell away
from her, leaving keys and knife and lighter in
a pile at her feet.
He released his own flames the moment she
started to burn, withdrawing his consciousness
into his own body. A wave of dizziness swept
over him, accompanied by a sense of colossal
exertion. The fire had taken to her more readily
than to anyone he had ever seen or heard tell
of, and still he was near ready to pass out with
the effort of sharing them with her. Slowly, he
sank to his knees, wondering if he had exhausted
the energy he needed for healing himself. If so,
he would die shortly.
He vowed, if he lived, to curb such arrogant
impetuousity in the future. With a touch more
caution, he thought, he might extend his
lifespan indefinitely. He knew then that his
thinking was not normal, there on the fringes of
shock, in the midst of an utter, mind numbing
exhaustion, with his blood still leaking from
his wounds. He realized that he had fallen from
a kneeling position, and was now lying on his
side among the pine needles. A cool darkness,
not unlike the Power itself, was gathering at
the edges of his vision and feeling its way
With a sudden touch of concern, she crouched
beside him. His breathing was shallow, his
wounds bleeding afresh. His flesh was feverish
to her touch, and she wondered if he might be
dying. Concern and intuition came together
suddenly, and she placed her hands on him,
calling the power from within her and pouring it
into him, seeking to use her own fresh energies
to heal him. She drew the edges of his wounds
together and set them to healing, brought his
temperature down and fed him energy. When she
had done all she could, she staggered back,
suddenly exhausted herself. Then, forcing
herself to straighten, she set off into the
woods in search of firewood and meat.
She brought down a young deer and carried it
back, picking up dead branches on the way. She
fed him blood and fat from the kill, to
stimulate his metabolism and give his body some
nutrients to work with; then she ate of the
meat. When she had the fire going, she went out
in search of more wood, returning quickly with
an adequate supply. The setting sun had darkened
the forest, but her eyes pierced the gloom
easily. With a little effort, she found that she
could see the heat emanations of the animals
around her, which would allow her to hunt
without any great effort. They had plenty of
food for the moment, so she ignored the
creatures and concentrated on gathering wood.
Her new body fascinated her: The toughness of
the flesh, the impossible speed and lightness
with which she could move, the silvery fur that
covered her. Strength and flexibility astounded
her, and she stared for an hour at the short
claws that tipped her reworked fingers. She
flexed her hands and arms, watching the play of
inhuman muscles across alien bones, beneath her
fur and skin. She tested her senses, measuring
them against the limits of her remembered
humanity, and was delighted. She hunted, she
slept, she prowled; and all the while she kept
watch over him as he healed.
He slept for three days and awoke weak and
drained. She continued to feed him, and he
recovered by degrees. Stubbornly, he insisted on
moving the third time he awoke, but dizziness
forced him to his knees. He had come very close
to dying, and they both knew it. He had gone
beyond the point where he could draw upon the
power to heal him; his body must heal itself,
and his power recover to some extent before he
could employ it again. All of his meager
energies were being diverted for the simple
purposes of keeping him alive.
By the end of the second week he was mobile
again, and impatient with his recovery. They
returned to the car, and then to the town, after
he had shown her how to assume a human aspect.
She learned quickly, and could doubtless have
managed the change without his instruction. They
left the car at her uncle's house, and crossed
the town quickly to enter the woods.
The Alpha was waiting for them, with the pack
spread out behind her. She approached them, tall
and pale and undead, and studied him. For a
moment she started to ask about his companion,
but decided instead to pursue her original
"You killed three of us," she said. It was
neither question nor accusation, but mere
statement of fact.
He waited. She studied him.
"You did not take their power," she observed.
He shook his head. "It was a matter of
survival, not advancement. Only survival."
She nodded, and changed questions. "You have
made your friend as we are. When?"
"A week ago."
"While wounded?" for the first time she
He nodded again, a terrible indifference in
"It was easy," he said. "She was perfect for
"Since you defeated the three of them, you
may have their place in our pack." Her eyes
shifted, then settled back on his. "There is
room for your companion as well."
"I would end up fighting you for mastery," he
replied. His tone was matter of fact, as if such
a confrontation were inevitable. "Such strife is
something I do not desire. I must refuse."
She nodded, then. "There will be no
retaliation for the deaths you gave. You may
remain here as solitary predators, so long as
you do not form a pack of your own."
"I understand," he said. They turned away
from each other then, the Alpha returning to the
pack, he to her. The forest was silent around
them for a time; then, one small movement at a
time, its sounds returned.
* * *
For a time she considered returning to her
uncle to try and explain, but she did not know
what to tell him. She had never been prone to
lying, and in the end she said nothing. She had
abandoned the human world in abandoning her
humanity, and wanted no further commerce with
it. The wilderness was her home now, as it was
for him, in all its beauty and its savagery, and
she was eager to explore it.