Beneath the Blood Moon by Zoey Xolton

Beneath the Blood Moon

by Zoey Xolton

The silver-edged knife slipped through Scarlet’s flesh without resistance, slicing her cheek and narrowly missing one of her albino red eyes. It was a deep cut and would leave a story-worthy scar. Scarlet’s hand flew to her face, needing to ascertain the extent of the damage. She winced as her hand came away slick with blood. The juvenile werewolf barred her teeth and growled at her attacker, but the threat was empty. She was helpless in human form, and he knew it.

Wrenching her gaze skyward, she desperately sought the moon, but the night sky was smeared with thick grey clouds, obscuring all but the light of a few faint stars. Panic rose in Scarlet’s throat as adrenalin coursed through her veins. She had been careless tonight, straying far from the safety of her kin. The wolves were not permitted to venture beyond the den before the Full Moon, it was too dangerous. It was common knowledge that a werewolf was at their most vulnerable in the transitional hours of the celestial ascension. Trapped within the bonds of her mortal flesh, she had no more strength than a young human woman.

“What do you want with me?” Scarlet demanded with more courage than she felt. Her only hope was to stall for time.

“I know what you are,” taunted her cloaked assailant.  His deep gravel sent shivers down her spine. “And you’re worth a lot of coin on the Black Market.” He sneered. “You’d make a pretty pet, a rare white she-wolf like you. Or in the very least, a novelty whore.” Then the man rushed her, closing the gap between them with startling speed. Was he part Otherkin? Scarlet gasped, the breath driven violently from her lungs as she hit the ground, hard. Fighting the dancing stars before her eyes, she grappled with the calloused hands at her throat.

His hot breath on her face reeked of cheap wine and stale bread.  A stomach deep surge of revulsion threatened to consume her. “Come quietly lovey, or die here and now. Do we have an understanding?” he asked, pressing his dirty, chipped hunting blade into the delicate exposed skin of her throat. Scarlet whimpered as she felt the stinging kiss of silver once more.

“Yes,” she whispered with what precious breath she could catch. “We have an understanding.” She held his gaze fearfully but defiantly, before he relaxed his grip and roughly locked silver-braided manacles around both her wrists. He tugged on them hard and she fell forward, the black river stones leaving her with tender abrasions.

Her captor laughed and turned his back on her then, pulling her up with his lead. Scarlet inspected her wrists as she stumbled along behind him. They were burning, blistering around the silver and already beginning to weep. Closing her eyes and stifling a sob, she made an effort to steady her breathing. It was not over yet. The tables could still turn. And if not, wolves fight until their last breath, she reminded herself, steeling her nerve. She would not become some human’s play thing.

Raising her bloodied face to the heavens, her skin began to prickle and the fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. The brilliant luminance of the full Blood Moon burst through the cloud cover and bathed the dark foreshore and surrounding forest in a ghostly red glow.

Now, it was Scarlet’s turn to smile. Dropping to all fours, caring little for her wounds, she let out a chilling howl as her bonds of silver snapped as easily as if they were twine. Pale flesh sprouted thick white fur and slim fingers folded into large padded paws. Her pupils became vertical slits and her wet nostrils flared. She scented the air and the poacher’s pungent odour assaulted her in waves.

The miscreant stood frozen, a beautiful and satisfying mix of confusion and horror contorting his features. Silver can’t bind a werewolf on a Full Moon, fool! She laughed internally. You chose the wrong night to prey on the heir of the Dark Moon Pack. Scarlet’s eyes narrowed, focusing on her prey. She pawed at the earth, head bent low as she snarled. He began to run, but for him it was too late. Her powerful hind quarters launched her into the air, her monstrous canine jaws finding their mark. His neck snapped with a deliciously audible crack, then the bastard’s world was painted red. He would hunt no more. Scarlet thrashed his lifeless body from side to side, flinging it across the dark shore with vicious force. She left his mutilated corpse as a warning to any others out that night, keen to make quick coin out of her brethren. She had survived her first run in with a hunter. The Alpha would be proud. The fact that she’d face a lecture when she returned to the den did little to mar the high she riding from the thrill of the kill. She threw her head back in triumph and howled to the Blood Moon. Moments later, she was joined by an otherworldly chorus. Her brothers and sisters cried out, a symphony of howls filling the night.

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