<b> "The Wolf Within"|
Men are pigs.
So I've experienced. Oh, sure, call me a hypocrite. Born a man as any other, it follows that I include myself in the statement. I suppose it lends more toward a generalization than a fact, for so many men care little for those around them and far more for themselves and what you can offer them. My town proved no exception, from the seedy inkeeper cheating on his wife to the smithy that charged full price for repairs in spite of his shoddy worksmanship. How many a guard fell victim to a shield that split from the first bandit's club after having paid that man his full price?
I, on the other hand, took pleasure in far more vain affairs. I woke up early enough every morning that I could prune myself diligently to look my very best. I held the esteemed position of Minstrel for the tavern at my bustling crossroads town, as well as a position in many young women's hearts for my dashing beauty and pitch-perfect voice. I thrived on feeling their hearts throb for me and making them swoon with love ballads so sickly sweet it amazes me still that any of my audience have intact teeth.
Of course, as much the sun in the sky lay I beyond reach of those young souls. Those ladies would better have kept an eye on their husbands with me in song for I sought *that* affection, not theirs. My efforts bore fruit often enough, for I had the beauty of a young Adonis and grace rivaling the classiest of noblewomen. "Fey", they called my kind.
This blessing -- my beauty -- would also provide my downfall, for I'd attracted the attention of... something else. He looked a man when I first laid eyes upon him, and oh... oh how I longed for him then. His marvelous frame stood well over six feet tall, towering over the young women who vied for my attention as I performed. I gained empathy that day, for I truly understood how those women felt from my toying with their hearts.
The man had a twinkle in his eyes as he gazed upon me, and I nearly forgot the next lyric. I stumbled across the strings of my lute for a moment although I doubt my audience had noticed. The more I played, the more I... hungered... for this man. By the time I finished my repertoire I felt as a wolf stalking a mate, just waiting for the chance to pounce.
As it turned out, he felt much the same. I didn't see him leave the tavern, but as I walked alone outside feeling dismayed at the missed opportunity he approached me.
"Your music was lovely," he said, grinning a toothy grin. "So soothing to a soul as ravaged as mine. Please, have my thanks."
His face, joined by my own in grinning, came under the illumination of the full moon as it passed from behind the clouds. Then I realized my mistake, and what would prove my fate for all eternity; for as I stood enthralled by the handsome young man before me he *changed*. From his charming face grew a wolf's snout and fur, pointed ears and large, sharp teeth. His hands and feet became large paws with claws that could shred my fancy garb to ribbons if I dared anger him.
The man, having revealed himself a were-wolf, bit me firmly on the arm. Pain lanced from the spot, traveling up the rest of my arm and shooting in spikes up and down my spine. My heart felt as if it might explode as the were-wolf sunk his teeth to the bone. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The wolf let go, howled soundly at the moon, and scampered off into the darkness of the forest.
I've spent the next several decades searching for him again, but to no avail. I'd seen in him a handsome man and the opportunity for a good night's company, but he... he had seen the beast within the beauty -- the wolf within me. All this time, I'd proved no better than the men I so despised and yet -- maddeningly -- longed for.
In that bite, even moreso than eternal life, he showed me the truth. I am the beauty *and* the beast, and for your sake dear reader I pray we meet before the moon turns full.