As Dietrich passed the night in fitful sleep,
A brooding figure walked the well-worn path
Where death had claimed so many of his gang.
No men were brave enough, no brigands fool
Enough to serve as bait for Chase's trap.
Now Simon Chase, hands clenched in helpless rage,
Strode down this path toward the river's edge.
He carried pistols, each prepared to shoot
A silver ball. Did he believe this wolf
To be some superstition come to life?
In truth, he had no answer to the question.
Still, when faced with situations that
Defy one's common sense, the most pragmatic
Man will often choose to hedge his bets.
He neared the spot his gang most often chose
For their activities but, unlike them,
He didn't lie in wait for him he sought.
"I'll not give him the upper hand this night,"
He swore beneath his breath, the misty puffs
Evaporating quickly into nothing –
Unlike the fear that grew within his breast
With every passing moment. Primal instincts,
Long forgotten, reasserted their control.
The businessman reverted to the hunter;
His senses, heightened by adrenaline,
Became attuned to every movement, every
Sound around him – chilly breezes stirring
Crispy leaves, and far-off owls in search
Of prey. More confident, he slowed his walk.
The growl was faint but clear. He wheeled about
And saw it – the size of a man, and black;
Its red eyes glowing, flickering like fire
As they studied him; it wrinkled its nose
And snorted its distaste. Bearing its fangs,
It charged at him so quickly…
Chase fumbled with a pistol, raising it
To fire point-blank into the creature's face –
With no effect! The hairy monster leaped
And Chase, the hapless victim, dropped his gun
And raised his arms to shield his face – a futile
Gesture borne of primal terror.
To his surprise, he neither died nor fell.
The beast dissolved before him like his chilly
Breath, passing through his hands and body
Like an icy arrow through his soul.
He gasped and dropped to his knees, clutching first
His neck and then his chest with trembling hands.
An apparition, nothing more… or so
He tried to tell himself. And yet he couldn't
Shake the fear that death had touched his soul.
A warning, this – a warning that it sought
One Simon Chase. Its grudge was personal
For reasons he had yet to understand,
And would return to claim its prize… and soon.
Unless he found a way to kill it first.
But not tonight. He ran back to the village,
Barred his door, and prayed for morning's light.