Elijah crouched in the darkness, waiting. His right hand was curled tight around his holstered crossbow, his left clenched into a fist. Breathe deep, he thought. Relax. His muscles obeyed, releasing the tension. Tension was his enemy. A tense breath made noise. Tension could get you killed.
A twig snapped. Elijah’s eyes darted towards the sound, the rest of his body remaining absolutely still. In the darkness of the forest, a shadow shifted. Silence settled.
The air was crisp, cold. He lived for nights like this. The cold kept you alert, but wasn’t enough to slow you down. The world seemed sharper under the dim glare of the moon, full tonight. But of course it was. He wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.
A rustle of leaves. Silent as the grave and oh so slowly, Elijah slid his crossbow out of its holster and raised it. He exhaled, careful not to disturb the silence. And then he spotted it, a glint in the night, a silver speck of moonlight glancing off a round, black eye. He focused on the eye, and with it as a reference point he found he could make out the rest of the creature.
Black, shaggy fur hung off its thick, muscular form, hunched under a tree as it gnawed on the carcass of some unfortunate animal. Its head was long, snouted, its cruelly sharp yellow teeth slicing silently through the hide of its kill. It shifted its position, hooking its long, curved claws into its meal and tearing off a limb. Lifting the meat to its muzzle, it closed its eyes, savouring the taste.
Elijah stared down the barrel of the crossbow and silently asked God for aid. His finger tightened on the trigger, sending the bolt whistling through the air. But luck was not on his side tonight, for at that moment the werewolf shifted again, and the bolt that should have pierced its neck buried itself in the beast’s shoulder instead.
It turned with impossible speed and fixed its malevolent gaze directly on Elijah. It roared, some sort of cross between a human scream and the howl of a wolf, and lunged forward.
Elijah knew he had no time to reload, so he flung the crossbow straight at the beast, striking the side of its head. It caused no injury, but slowed it down, just long enough for him to draw his knife before the werewolf came snarling down on top of him, claws slashing through the darkness. A white-hot line of fire whipped across Elijah’s arm as he lifted it to protect himself, but he paid it no heed, striking with the other hand, burying the knife in the monster’s gut. It yelped and darted backwards, but Elijah held onto the knife hilt and wrenched it out of the flesh.
The beast roared again, rearing up on its hind legs, baring the fur on its lower torso now soaked red with blood. Elijah wasted no time and darted forwards, this time plunging the knife up into soft flesh under the werewolf’s chin. The black eyes clouded, and red rivulets trickled from its limply hanging jaw.
It collapsed on top of him, closing its arms around Elijah in a deathly embrace. He fell backwards, the warm, hairy mass crushing him to the ground. The werewolf twitched once, and then was still. He heaved it off, panting for breath, but he wasn’t done yet. His client would need proof. He drew his knife and hacked down on the werewolf’s neck, and after a few seconds pulled the head free and stuffed it in the drawstring back slung across his back. He took a step back, and as he did so, the beast’s corpse spasmed. The transformation was never pleasant. Elijah turned his back and waited for a few heartbeats. When he turned again, the headless corpse was that of a young man, no more than twenty years old, he guessed. The head would remain in its wolf-form of course, now that it was detached. No one really knew why.
Leaving the corpse of the boy lying in the undergrowth, uncovered and unburied, Elijah recovered his crossbow and strode off into the night.