Hunter's Moon

D&December, 2017

There is a hush that falls in the city, blankets it with soft snow and smothers it. Shutters of grey-washed shacks are nailed tightly shut here, and the doors are locked against the wilderness, against the hunters and the hunted. But try as it might, the city cannot hide the dips and divots of clawed footprints, cannot cloak his prey.

He stalks lazily around the twisted angles and tangled alleyways and the hardened soles of his leather boots barely whisper when they slide across the the stones. No, no, he hunts as easily here as though he traipsed through thorny groves and thickets beyond the white walls that blocked the sleeping moon.

His prey is thrashing mindlessly here, blind and brainless. Between the hunched, heaving back and breathless howls, it is clear that the transformation is incomplete, that he has cornered his quarry long before the proper moment. He takes a moment to toe the crumpled mass of shredded clothing, to gulp a mouthful of cool air and stale smoke, to roll his tongue and taste the sour scent of sweat that coats the back of his teeth like a cheap perfume.

No.

This won't do.

It is tearing at the talons in the netting, ripping red gashes through flesh and fat until blood has spit and splattered and painted the bricks of unlucky houses anew. He very nearly pities it, very nearly lifts the hammer and ends it all here and now in one swift downswing. It would be simple, just to let that weight drop from his shoulders and watch it burst and bloom into ruin.

But there is a hunt to see to.

With a nimble flick of his knife, he frees the beast and watches it bound through the steady feather-fall of snow, winding along cobbles and around cornerstones. A chorus of wolves cuts cleanly through the night and shakes the stars. It would have been a mercy, he knows, to have ended it before the moon rose.

Where is the fun in that?

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