The hunt was going badly for Jeffrey. Never before had an adversary been able to turn the tables on the man in his mid thirties. Not once in the past twenty years, did he use all of his traps with complete failure. If his first trick did not work, the second or third would. He would have to come up with a new idea, and quickly. While that shouldn’t have been too hard for him, werewolves are not known for their abundance of intellect, he was having a decidedly hard time coming up with one. The rush of adrenaline mixed with the growing tinge of fear kept him from thinking straight. He had to calm down.
Jeffery forced himself to take deep breaths as he ran over the night’s events. His first trap had not fooled the beast. Years ago when he was fifteen and first learned he was the youngest in a long line of hunters, his father had explained to him that a werewolf relied heavily on its keen smell. Generations prior, an ancestor of his had discovered that the beasts could smell even the slightest drop of fresh blood from as far as a mile away. He had also found out that a shape shifter could not distinguish between a single drop of blood, and a bucket of blood. That inability to distinguish varying amounts of blood gave the hunters something to use.
A hunter would prick their finger with a needle or cut a small slice with a knife and wipe the red liquid onto multiple pieces of cloth. It had to be their blood; a wolf could tell the difference between human and animal blood, and whether or not the blood was fresh. The pieces of cloth were then scattered around in various locations to confuse the creature concerning their position. While his foe was perplexed and searching from spot to spot, Jeffery would position himself so he could slice the head of the beast off with his sword.
Jeffery’s sword was a kilij. The design of the kilij made it perfect for cutting through flesh and cartilage in one slicing motion. The sword’s wider tip and stiffer blade gave it the weight and strength needed. It is said that Vlad Tepes, the inspiration for Dracula, used this type of blade. For Jeffery, it was an equalizer to the claws of the beasts. Silver bullets were a myth. They did nothing more than to make them angy. Only massive destruction to one worked. Removal of the head… being sliced in half… or burned to a crisp, were the only ways Jeffery knew to how kill a werewolf. The full moon, another myth, was not needed for a werewolf to morph. Shape shifters could change at will making them harder and more dangerous to hunt.
The blood trick failed. The werewolf ignored the false locations and chose to find Jeffery instead. While curious, this was not totally unheard of so Jeffery put into action the second ploy. Werewolves weighed a minimum of twice what he did. Jeffery would dig a pit and place spikes upright in the floor of it. Across the top of the hole, he would lay a canopy that was sturdy enough to take his weight but would still give in when crossed by his prey. The werewolf in its desire to taste blood would not notice the trap, and as it ran across the cover, would crash into the pit, impaling itself on the spikes. At that point it was easy for the hunter to jump in and slice off the head.
When the monster had ignored the carefully placed blood rags amongst the trees, Jeffery showed himself to the beast. He had its attention and Jeffery turned to run across the trap he had set. Not bothering to look behind him, he raced across the canopy to the other side. Any second now, he thought to himself as he continued to run. Expecting to hear a crash but hearing none, he stopped and turned to look behind. The way was clear. No werewolf came at him, neither had it fallen into the pit. He had done what no hunter should ever do, lost sight of his prey. That made him the hunted.
In desperation, he raced to where his third and final trap was set. An abandoned tool shed in the woods. Within the walls of the tools shed was a bucket of gas that he would use to douse the creature. Then with a flick of his Zippo, his prey would be engulfed in flames while he used the kilij for what it was intended. He got to where the shed was located and stopped in his tracks, the building was destroyed! It looked like a wrecking ball had been used to collapse it inward. There was no way for him to get to the gas now. He spun around to see if he could catch a glimpse of the creature he had been hunting. The werewolf was nowhere to be seen but Jeffery knew it would not be far off. He was the main course for the night and they were not known for letting prey slip away. He went to a large maple tree and placed his back against it. Jeffery tried to control his breathing, he wanted to hear the creature if he could.
As he stood there with his back against the tree and sword ready, a thought plagued the tense huntsman. The creature seemed to know Jeffery’s ambushes, like it was familiar with his approach. Not only did the werewolf avoid his snares, but the shed being destroyed gave him the impression that the werewolf anticipated his moves. These were not creatures that reasoned. They didn’t think out their attacks, but acted on complete animalistic instinct and desire. The sheer viciousness of an attack by one of these things led a person to realize that it was not a clever being that committed the violent acts. It was simply brute force and ignorance.
Yet here Jeffery was, feeling outwitted by an irrational foe. His adversary was breaking convention by not yet attacking him. By now Jeffery should be dead, or fighting for his life against a stronger faster opponent. Werewolves attack fast and hard, not giving their prey a chance to react or escape. Lust for blood so intense that the desire to feed takes control and in an effort to satiate the hunger that gnaws at them, killing is done quickly. This baffled the hunter. Why had the monster not attacked him? Was it toying with him? He had never seen one take part in playing with its intended victim before. That would make this one different than the others. Way different.
The last time he had encountered a hunt this difficult, was when he had been barely twenty and his father had still been alive. For five years, Jeffery’s father had been training him in the art of hunting and killing werewolves.
“You must remember that we are the protectors of the rest of mankind against these creatures.” The older hunter told his son. “Our first thought every morning and last thought each night must be that fact,”
Jeffery had proven to be an astute student, learning each technique and trick his father taught him easily. His father had often said that Jeffery would be an even greater hunter than himself. On the last hunt they went on together, his father had let him take the lead. For weeks they had hunted and tracked the werewolf through the forests of Alaska. Had the beast not chosen to attack a nearby village, it probably could have lived out its life in peace hunting animals. But it crossed the line when it began hunting humans. Jeffery and his father caught wind of the attacks and went to work.
“Look, fur on that sapling.” Jeffery pointed out.
“I see it son.”
They felt they were closing in and soon would encounter the beast. The very first night in the village they dealt with the beast by accident. Not expecting to come across it so soon after it had killed just a few days before they arrived, they were unprepared and only through Jeffery’s quick use of his sword managed to fight it off. It attacked them as they were inspecting the village at night. Jeffery managed to cut deeply into its shoulder with his sword nearly severing its arm from the body. The beast howled angrily and fled into the woods, leaving a blood trail behind. The hunt was on and the two men proceeded to track the creature.
“He’s been through here recently.” Jeffery commented as he smelled the fur.
“Good maybe we can lay our traps in this area.”
Jeffery nodded that he agreed, it was time to end this. That first encounter with the werewolf left Jeffery with a bad feeling. His father had said it was the biggest one had had ever seen. Three weeks into the hunt, they always seemed to be close on its heals but never close enough to strike. Jeffery had the feeling it was leading them deep into the woods to toy with them. The sooner they killed it the better. It took the better part of two days to dig the pit and set the spikes then covered that with long branches. All the while that they dug, the two men had the feeling they were being watched. Once the pit was dug, they cut their fingers and wiped the blood on rags, placing them in trees all around the pit. It was just past dusk with a gibbous moon on the rise and visibility was minimal, only outlines distinguished one object from another.
“It’s coming” Jeffery’s father said moments before Jeffery could hear it through the woods.
His father’s instincts were always correct and the two men took their places on either side of the pit. Their hope was to draw it into charging one of them. If they could side step it when it attacked, the pit would serve its purpose. Then they could finish it off. Loud snapping of twigs in the forest on his father’s side of the pit gave away the location of the werewolf. The middle aged man turned towards the direction of the noise. No sooner had Jeffery’s father done this when the beast emerged at a high rate of speed from behind a clump of trees.
As the snarling snapping monster was very nearly upon him, the older man spun sideways, letting the attacker run past. His father cried out in pain but Jeffery barely noticed; his attention focused on the creature that was crashing through the pit with a thunderous howl. The beast was so large that its head protruded from the top of the pit and it wildly began to thrash around against the stakes that impaled it. As if in a dream Jeffery watched as the werewolf flayed about. The spikes began splintering from the force of its actions and it seemed as if it might break free.
“Kill it!” His father screamed from across the pit.
Jeffery raised his kilij and swung hard at the neck. The blade cut cleanly through the flesh and bone decapitating the creature, yet still the body continued to move wildly. Blood spurted upwards from the severed neck and after a long moment, the body caught up to the fact that it was dead and ceased to move. That’s when Jeffery’s father announced he was bleeding from his forearm. Silently Jeffery walked to the other side of the pit.
“Is it a bite or were you clawed?” The answer was important.
“I don’t know, I can’t tell in the darkness.”
“Let’s get a fire going and then we can look at.”
In silence the two built a campfire and inspected the wound. It was as they both feared, he was bitten.
“How long you think before the change?” Jeffery asked; his voice hollow and devoid of emotion.
“Not long, this one was strong. The strongest I’ve ever seen.”
“Best be done quickly then.”
Both men knew what needed to happen. Jeffery’s father could not be allowed to live. He would become one of them before the night was through. The older hunter pulled a forty five out of the hip holster he wore. They nodded to each other and Jeffery walked away from the campfire. Long moments ticked by and still no shot rang out. The young man turned around and headed back to the fire to find his father holding the gun to his own temple. His hand trembled.
“God forgive me.” The older hunter whispered as he lowered his weapon. “I can’ take my own life.”
With no hesitation and not allowing himself to feel remorse, Jeffery silently walked up behind his father and in one swift motion, sliced his head off with his sword. As his father’s head fell to the ground, Jeffery sank to his knees and sobbed.
That was nearly sixteen years ago and even though the present creature was not nearly as large or as strong as the one who bit his father, it was giving him a much harder time.
He had to think. His heart raced wildly in his chest as he struggled to come up with a plan. Try as he might, Jeffery could not get the thought that this werewolf knew his moves, out of his head. It was like the beast knew his thoughts. Only one other being had ever come close to knowing his thoughts…Elayna. Elayna was a Greek ex- ballet dancer that he had spent five years traveling Europe with. She had a habit of finishing his sentences when he spoke. A trait he found both endearing and exasperating. Elayna trekked across the continent with him as he hunted beast after beast. At first she knew nothing of his doings; only that his business made him travel for extended periods. After three years of being together, he finally confided in her. Understandably, Elayna was skeptical, thinking he was playing a prank on her. It wasn’t until she followed Jeffery one night and saw him complete his work, that she understood he spoke the truth.
After that night Elayna became interested in his vocation. She never followed him again, it was far too dangerous. Instead she lived the experiences vicariously through his tales. The woman questioned him ardently about the encounters. Elayna wanted to know the tiniest of details and pressed him if he skipped any. Unfortunately the confession of what he was, ultimately led to the downfall of their love affair. While Jeffery was a more black and white type of person, Elayna had a bleeding heart. She was the type of person who could feel sorry for an addict because the drugs had gotten control of them. Jeffery however, had no use for that type and pitied no one who could not be in charge of their own actions. Near the end of the relationship, Elayna used to argue that werewolves were not to blame. Since they had been bitten and could not control themselves, they were not to be held responsible. Jeffery couldn’t have disagreed more. They were vicious killers that needed to be destroyed. No matter how they got that way. The final straw was Jeffery’s silence to a question Elayna posed.
“If I were bitten, would you kill me too?”
Elayna left his life that night, never to be seen again.
Five years had gone by since then. Jeffery forced thoughts of Elayna out of his head. Distractions would get him killed. Heavy panting behind the tree he leaned on brought him to reality. In a flash he spun to his left and swung the kilij with a killing stroke. It landed with a thud, imbedded in the pine tree. Frantically he tugged at the blade to break it loose. A branch snapping to his right gave him the strength he needed to yank the sword out. He set himself in a defensive posture with the kilij raised above his right shoulder, eyes darting back and forth to find his antagonist. Swift motion through the trees surrounding him added to his uneasiness. The werewolf was circling him just outside of his field of vision. A rush from behind made him spin to face his attacker. The beast was nearly upon him and he swung wildly, hoping to hit something, anything.
The arc of the blade took a downward trend and sliced into the leg of the oncoming monster causing it to bellow in pain. The beast swung its massive hand like paw at him and knocked him to the ground. The force of the blow nearly made him drop the sword. Jeffery scrambled to get up as another blow sent him reeling across the floor of the woods. This time the sword flew from his hands, leaving him defenseless against the massive creature. As Jeffery watched, the beast, its leg already beginning to heal, walked deliberately to the sword and stomped on it, snapping it in half.
Dread overtook Jeffery at the loss of his only weapon and he scrambled to get up and run. The werewolf was immediately upon him and grabbed him from behind by his shoulders, lifting him off the ground. Hot breath enveloped his neck as saliva from the beast’s mouth soaked the shoulder of his shirt. Pain… searing hot pain assaulted his neck as the creature bit into his flesh. Jeffery waited for the brutal attack that must follow and was shocked when none did. The monster let go of him, dropping him to the ground. The creature’s heavy breathing became shallower as it kneeled down. The body of the creature began to shake. With a loud howl, the werewolf welcomed the transformation that was to take place. As the hair melted away and the figure in front of him took a more human form, Jeffery felt the nagging of recognition. Finally the transformation was complete and Jeffery stared open mouthed at the being near him.
Where once there had been a monster, there was now a petite, familiar woman. Elayna stood up and walked to where Jeffery lay on the ground. The pain in his shoulder was blinding hot and he had trouble concentrating on her words while she stood there naked, addressing him in the moonlight.
“So now you will know how it feels to be us. We didn’t ask for this curse. It was thrust upon us, as now it has been given to you.” Elayna paused to allow the shock of the moment to settle in.
“Remember that hunter you once worked with near the end of our relationship? What was his name? Oh yes, Francois. I hear tell he has been informed of a new werewolf in this area. Too bad you won’t be able to get adjusted to your new self before having to run. A word of advice, there is nobody we hate more than a changeling who used to be a hunter, so don’t look for help from the pack.”
Jeffery closed his eyes so he could concentrate on her words. When he opened them back up, she was gone. Behind him… nearby in the woods…he heard the sound of a sword sliding out of a sheath.