A wolf howled in the distance. The monstrous creature was close now. It shifted from the gloom of the forest to the shadow of the derelict wall. Trey panicked and ducked behind a crate of salted fish that had been caught in the fast waters of the River Rike. A few feet away the thing stopped. Trey could smell it even above the stench of the fish. It was like the odour of putrid flesh. Every breath Trey inhaled seemed to curdle in his lungs. It took all his strength not to throw up.
The monster sniffed deeply like a dog. Had it caught Trey’s scent or just the fish? It started to head toward where Trey was hiding. The wolf howled again from the woods. The booming footsteps sounded close now. Trey was certain that those stalking steps could not be that loud and that it was just his mind amplifying the noise from terror. They continued for a moment then fell silent. A deep breathing came from just the other side of the crate.
A cold drop hit his face, then another and another. Images of the creature leaning over the crate, staring down at Trey as saliva dripped from hungry jaws raced through his head. With a barely suppressed sigh of relief, he realised that the drips came from the heavens and not the monster as he had feared. The sound of the breathing was drowned out by the pelting of the cool rain as the skies suddenly opened.
Trey’s heart stopped as he looked up. A large, black skinned hand was reaching over the crate to him. It’s found me. I’m going to die. Nothing I can do. He suppressed another shiver as he pictured himself dying. I’m going to die. I’m going to die, he kept chanting in his head. All rational thought had left him by this point.
There was a savage growl but the hand never reached him. A few moments passed. Trey realised he was holding his breath. He slowly stood up to see where the beast was. To his surprise it was on the floor wrestling with a large, grey furred wolf. Other canine shapes darted through the trees around them. The axe had fallen a few feet away from it. Trey didn’t need telling what to do.
He turned and ran. His heart was beating so fast that it felt like it would explode any second. He chanced looking back and saw that the monster had the first wolf in its gigantic hand. With a mere flick of its wrist it threw the canine into the woods. The wolf hit a tree with crippling force. Two others jumped at the demon with fangs bared. Trey couldn’t bear to watch any more. He just ran. He didn’t care where; he just wanted to get away.
The next thing he knew he had tripped and was flying through the air. He smashed into the floor, grazing his hands and knees. He lay there panting for a few moments as he tried to pull himself together. His blood mingled with the rain, his clothes and hair sodden. Rationality gradually began to return to him.
“I’ve got to go back. If that thing gets into the city who knows what it would do,” he said to himself, more to calm himself down than anything else. The sound of his own voice gave him courage and confidence. “I’ll find a weapon then go back and stop it. Yeah.”
He rose to his feet and started to head back to where the beast had almost confronted him. As he passed the deserted market area he found a discarded crowbar near some crates and decided it would be a good makeshift weapon.
When he came near the spot again he started to realise the flaws in his plan. The first was the creature was huge, strong and had a giant axe. Secondly was that, while Trey was good with his training swords, he was now using a heavy iron bar. Third was he was absolutely terrified of the monster. It was too late to turn back now though. He was at the crate of fish again. Trey stood without moving as he looked around for the beast.
He couldn’t see any sign of the monster, only blood specks that Trey suspected belonged to the wolves alone. Just as he was about to turn and go home a hand tightly grabbed his shoulder. He was on the verge of lashing out with the crowbar.
“Trey, what’s up, you’re acting kind of weird? Weirder than normal anyway.” It was only Billy.
Trey emptied all the breath in his lungs in one deep sigh of relief then turned to face his friend. “I think I need to sit down for a bit, I’ve seen some really strange stuff today.”
“Why are you even up? You’re not at school so I would have thought you would be in bed all day.”
“I needed to clear my head. You?”
“Some people make the most of their time. I was out jogging. Come on. Let’s go to your house and get some dry clothes.”
Only then did Trey realise his clothes were absolutely sodden. The rain had slowed to little more than a drizzle. His hair hung in damp tendrils over his eyes. As they walked back to Trey’s house he filled Billy in on all that he had seen. His hand shook slightly as he spoke and his face was pale. As they reached his door the morning bell rang.
Billy shook his head with a frown. “This sounds dangerous.” He knew Trey well enough not to doubt his words.
Trey opened the door and stepped inside. His mother was stood waiting for him.
“Typical. It rains so you stay out and get soaked. Oh, hello Billy, thanks for bringing him back.” Her face hardened as she saw the look on Trey’s face. She took Trey gently by the shoulders and looked into his eyes. “What’s the matter? You look ill.”
Trey told Sarah what had happened over a hot drink and, like Billy, she believed him straight away. Trey had several faults, but he was honest. She stood in silent thought for a few minutes before she said anything. “I don’t know what it is but I think I know who might. Garvel Malma.”