Gathering his wits about him, Alastor climbed down the tree and darted to the dead molly. Catching sight of the animal’s dull eyes, he mouthed a quick regret before grabbing the fallen bags. These contained provisions to see him through the night: clothes, food and wine. He hurried back up the tree.
As the sun set, boredom moved him to eat an early dinner. The wine lightened his mood and provided some welcomed warmth. To prevent slipping off the branch, he pulled out the broad himation from his bag and tied himself to the branch.
After which, he wrapped a woollen cape around his shoulders and settled back to endure a sleepless and bone numbing night.
The moon was wholesome but the thick forest canopy allowed only dull light through to the ground. Before long, a hazy black blanketed the forest. A mossy cloud of fireflies danced and darted, dying in the moonlight and coming alive in the dark.
No howls shattered the silent buzz of the forest and the incessant chittering of insects lulled him into a false sense of safety. And as the night matured, he dozed off and snapped awake in gentle dips and sharp snatches.
He snorted and woke! Within an intake of a breath, his senses pricked sharp.
What was that?
Context: Electrical power had rendered our nights bright but during ancient times, man relied on moonlight. Torches had limited effect.
Note: I shall borrow a word, phrase or the theme from your comment—a maximum of five primary comments or until the next post, whichever the sooner—and develop this story via my replies. Thank you for your assistance.
*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***
Comments closed. Thank you Willow, Windy, Ina and Sarah for your contributions.
Such an evocative post. The cold and still night, the dancing and buzzing of insects that never sleep, the bone-numbing lying along a branch. Taking us and putting us in the scene with Alastor makes me grateful for my roof and soft bed, and the option of hotels when I need to travel. 🙂
When the first shades of dawn filtered through the leaves, Alastor eased himself to the ground. With weapons ready, he examined the dead molly. Much of the mule was gone, for only skin and bones remained. The wolf-beast had enjoyed a hearty feast.
Alastor searched the grounds but found no spoor. He was somewhat confident – perhaps instinct told him – that the animal was not in the vicinity and neither was it waiting in ambush.
He looked to his left and right, assessing the road. The left led into the unknown, in the direction his friend, the ore merchant, had indicated in the map. The right led to Theron’s Cross, in the direction his mules had fled.
Decision made, he shouldered his bags and, with the sturdy staff in hand, headed towards Theron’s Cross. He kept his eyes peeled and ears pricked but detected no danger; felt no sensation of being followed or watched.
Trust your weekend is turning out well.
Thank you for your well thought summation. Much appreciate the input and fuel to propel Alastor’s journey. Option, you say and he had exercised it. Let’s hope the direction he took leads him to better things.
Hope to see you back again 🙂
I’m glad he’s heading off refreshed. It doesn’t sound as if he spent a night in a tree, but then he’s much younger and fitter than me I think 🙂
Even at this age, I can lose a night’s sleep and continue to perform another day. Of course, at 62, I cannot do it two days in a row.
And Alastor is much younger and people back then were hardier too, I believe.
Maybe he heard the crack of dawn.
Alastor blinked and cleared his vision. He spotted the same fiery eyes, from earlier that night, boring down on him. Then, in a flash, the eyes disappeared. The beast must have turned away. There was a rustle of mulch. The metalsmith held his breath. But the attack did not come. The beast had run away: surely not out of fear. Why then?
A chilling howl rose. It came from all around. Then, another howl and another.
Alastor clambered up the tree and surveyed the grounds. The howling continued for a while longer, before it died. After a pronounced pause the insects of the night came alive with their chirping. Somewhere, a frog added its tentative croak to the awakening noise. Another croak. After a third, it received a response. Soon, the two frogs grew in confidence and continued with their rhythmic mating calls.
Alastor’s heartbeats slowed and he licked his lips. Two questions assailed him: Why did the beast not attack? But of greater importance, what manner of beast was it?
Whatever it was, he decided to wait for dawn before venturing down the tree.
That must have been startling – the crack of dawn 🙂
I think he frightened himself, they were the two mules that he lets go earlier who came back to look for him. The forest saved them from the howling creature, took pity on him for his one dead mule and sent the good mules to assist him to pursue his journey. After all he was not awakened by a howl, but by his own senses running full time.
A sharp screech. The wild beating of wings. A large night bird landed on a sagging branch. Alarmed by Alastor’s presence, it screeched again and launched into flight. Too late.
Alastor slipped and fell. During the night the himation had come loose.
In one movement, the metalsmith landed and rolled. Within a breath and a half, he was on his feet. His back to the tree. Weapons ready.
A long deep growl, as if water pouring out of a ewer, emanated out of the dark. It was the creature.
Ah, you suspect the forest is more than a passive witness. Hmmm. And the mules returned, you say. The latter triggered an idea 🙂
All good wishes,
Maybe a bat, or a small tree creature 🌹💜
Alastor heard sounds, quite distinct in the silent night, of tearing flesh and gnashing teeth. The wolf, the creature – for he was unsure whether it was a wolf – was feasting on the dead molly.
A sheet of darkness shrouded the spot and Alastor peered to discern the different shades of black. He caught a movement.
His eyes focussed, making out the silhouette of the animal. It tore pieces off the carcass, threw its head back and gulped down chunks of meat. It stopped, as if listening, and after a moment returned its attention to the dead mule. The sound of crunching bones and ripping flesh intermingled with low deep throated growls.
The creature was huge, much larger than a wolf. Was it a bear? But what of the howls? What was down there? Alastor was too far away and the forest too dark.
He froze; held his breath. The beast had looked up, and the metalsmith was convinced it was eyeing him. He did not blink but stared, fascinated. The creature’s eyes were bright red, gleaming—and looked intelligent.
Hello Willow dear,
A small creature it could be – but one that howls 🙂
Thank you for helping with the prompt – I’m using the word creature.
Have a great weekend ahead,
Thanks Eric, I misunderstood I thought Alaator woke because something was nipping and scratching him…. No I see he woke to the sound. Is this a werewolf ? Have a great weekend too. This story is exciting.💜
No worries, Willow dear
Is it a werewolf? I hope not 🙂
Thank you for participating,
I shall read more carefully in future!
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