Chapter one

There in the corner he sat; so very alone, so intensely abandoned by all that lived and breathed. None would stray so far, even, as to exchange a word with the huddled volatile haggard man. None would meet his gaze. And above all, none would enter his cell for this, without a doubt, was suicide. Even the rats, gaunt and forgotten, would never dare to spend a moment with him in the night, as they did with the others. They broke their usual habit of nibbling on toes and feet, with this prisoner, for the result of this intrusion was certain death; an abhorrent flurry of teeth, and gruesome yellowed fingernails. The dungeon was perfectly lightless at all times, and yet the prisoner seemed to ever be aware of the suns progress in the sky. And even by night his mind was wary and vigilant. His eyes never quite closed, his breath never slowed to a true sleep's drowsy crawl. The rats were terrified of him, this prisoner, this man, this creature. They blocked their rat holes with their excrement and with matted shed fur, even sometimes sacrificing savory bones to bolster their defenses. However, the rats had little cause for concern; the prisoner had no desire to feed on their filthy hides.

He was not interested in rat's meat. He sat, day and night, sometimes for weeks on end, drooling, staring. Staring through the small lonely grating to the chamber. Staring at the shackled filthy inmates. They cast their eyes down to avoid his greedy ravenous unquenchable stare, as if with his eyes he could devour them. His piercing hollow gaze yearned for freedom. More than anything he wished for the taste of flesh on his parched tongue once again. He could only just remember its taste. And that was what kept him alive. That was why he ate his meager rations, those which would never truly end his hunger. That was why he gasped and shivered in lust for the feeling of moonbeams on his flesh again. That was why he knew he must escape.

In the end, he was not truly meant to be in a cell. His crimes were egregious, and disgusting. And yet the whole matter was scrutinized with some uncertainty. The details seemed wholly untrue, or else unbelievable. This man was supposed to be dead. His unmarred body was meant to be a morbid mess. However the execution had not gone well. And he was still here. Time passed. He was forgotten. He had not relations, no friends, perhaps an orphan or an outsider from another part of the world. Only a sparse few remembered him and most tried to forget.

December 13, 1226a.d: The prisoner's escape

Snow spiraled among the many towers and long winding battlements of the structure consumed by ice. Shivering tendrils of frozen water hung from its many ledges poised to strike at any moment like frigid darts from a blowgun. The wind howled mockingly as it made its way south, buffeting the tall blustery pines and willfully cracking the rigid black flags to an obstinate flourish. No solitary figure could be spied by the most wary eye. The scene was devoid of life. Even the few and frosted windows of the tall spire were dull and inhospitable. The only noise was the spiteful North Wind cackling in the densely clouded sky.

It was dark, yet no star dared to show its face. The clouds made the night a bleak one, dark as pitch. And the wind continued to dominate the landscape. It was a high and howling one, like none that had ever been heard at this time of the year. It shrieked with shrill revulsion at the landlubbers, it screeched as if scraping against the clouds. Even the lively forest was downcast and sedated. It was waylaid by sheets of ever falling snow. The creatures that would not die in the freeze were already burrowed into it.

Delicate flakes smashed into the structure, dying in their first seconds of life. Mound after mound of snow formed on the firm stone roof; still, would this defense last forever? The structure was besieged by a vicious enemy; a blizzard of unyielding ferocity. The wailing wind attacked all through the night, on and off, charging and pausing to renew its strength. Finally when the winds had aggressed for a seemingly immeasurable period of time, a long unearthly howl rose above the still white cold. It blasted like a wounded trumpeter, forlorn and whimpering like a dying banshee. Then it ceased, and the forest trembled in what could have been terror. In reality, however, it was only the wind carrying the horrific emanation to the ears of the southern forest.

The minutes passed like eons, and some activity could be seen at the very base of the structure. A figure, clad in a mess of furs, protruded from the snow. His face was unrecognizable in his weathered garments. Soon after, he was accompanied by a sturdily built man in an equally concealing outfit. The pair trudged endlessly through the flurry, finally stationing themselves by the snow dusted gate. They stood resolutely erect against the blizzard. They were the guard.

The vigilant sentry gradually deteriorated, soon nothing but two slightly hunched mounds of snow. One time and one time only, the men shook the snow off, brushing their coats and faces with a vehemence, afraid of what might happen were they to succumb. However, they quickly returned to the same state. They were asleep. The first would awaken to find his fingers, toes and ears severely frostbitten, the gate open, his sentry failed. The second would not wake up at all. He would end huddled, clutching his face with his gloved hands to keep off the cold. But the cold could not be kept at bay.

He was already dead when the second howl rose, like a tangible terror, above the snowcapped, forested mountains.

The shaking call jettisoned over the range into the gully, flying with a vicious alacrity. It filled the valley with an abhorrent sonorous resonance that miraculously had no effect on the remaining watchman. The wind had ceased for now so the inhabitants of the structure had no refuge to their horror. They could not attribute the noise to any force of nature, any benign creature or machine. They could not retreat to any crevice of security that had perhaps survived the windy frigid blizzard night. They could not mistake the groping malicious howl of the wolf.

The prisoner remained motionless. Long, matted hair drooped over his face, like a curtain to a coveted identity. His bright green eyes were abnormally dark, gruesomely enlarged pupils pale in contrast to the night. In the corridor, a cacophony of chattering teeth could be heard. But those of the prisoner were quite stationary. His moment was at hand, his time had finally arrived. Tonight before the moon disappeared, he would have his freedom. Endless years of forgotten torment would soon come to an end. And yet he continued to lay paralyzed, as if awed by the magnitude and flagrant audacity of the deed he was soon to attempt. But this was only an impression. The mind within, keen as clockwork, was shrewdly appraising the situation.

A third howl shot through the corridor like a frightened bat, the other prisoner's stifling cries of dismay at its proximity; for this noise, unlike the others, had not come from the outside. It had been born from the filthy, maniacally contorted mouth of the forgotten prisoner. He was poised in a bazaar and frightful way, his hands, or front feet as they seemed now to be, jutted out to his front, fingers and long mottled nails clutching the ground as if the world had been turned upside down. He had thrown up his head, hair flung in wild disarray down his neck, crazed eyes bulging in malevolent euphoria.

His thin lips were drawn to reveal strangely pointed teeth and a long thick black and brown tongue. He drooled savagely, his neck bonewrenchingly crooked. All facets of his posture were in perfectly horrific states. Every possible contortion of the body, in order to form a flawless terror, had been accomplished. The prisoners that could see him wailed.

The howl had left his lips, the others swore on it, but the jailer would hear none of this. He was a stout man, surely the vilest creature, aside from the prisoner, to ever have entered the dungeon. It was a miracle that he did not share the same fate as those he attended. He clung only to his belief in God. The cross hanging from his fat, grimy neck, was a testimony to that. He adhered to his believes, loosely enough to abuse the inhabitants of his dungeon, yet strictly enough to cast down any form of superstition. When it came time for the ration of the day it was without fear that he plunged his hand into the small delivery flap. He would never expect what was waiting, clenching its talon like nails, and extending its inhumanly cavernous maw.

At first he did not understand the sharp piercing pain, and only winced slightly in a bewildered manner. But as it grew more excruciating he came to a horrific revelation. He yanked ferociously, and, when the unseen jaws remained steadfast, he panicked. The jailer hurriedly smashed a key into the lock of the door, wrenching it sideways with an audible snap. The key fell broken to the ground, and yet the deed was done, the misfortune could not be reversed. The door was open. The Lycanthrope was out.

It suffices to say that the jailor was found five days later, when the screams of the starving prisoners became too much. He was flat on the ground, his bloodied corpse thoroughly rotten, with two wounds on his shoulder, where it appeared someone, or something had grasped him with seemingly impossible strength. There were a series of bite marks on his neck, as if some animal had rapidly delivered a deluge of fearsome bites. They still shone brightly with the man's bright red blood. When he was examined further it was decided that the only creature capable of delivering such a combination of wounds, was- but surely it was impossible- a gorilla.

Though many possibilities were presented, in the end it was dismissed; the lost life too wretched to harbor much grief. The escapee was a horrible one, but unimportant; it was likely that he would not make it over the mountains. Amidst the ruckus, several of the other prisoners attempted escape; all failed, though one had made it to the gates before he was waylaid by the sentinel. All factors of the murder were accounted, all were forgotten. Every fact and circumstance was revealed over time. All but one...

Two figures were seen from the tallest window, in the faintest feeblest glimmer of light. Two figures scaling the rugged snow drenched cliffs…

The Lycanthrope was loose.