Remember that happiness I mentioned a moment ago?
Well, it was certainly short-lived. Now, it’s been replaced by an all-consuming and white-hot rage.
And, looking down at the gigantic furry paws where my hands used to be, something else has been replaced too…
All my senses are heightened, as sharp as my razor claws and teeth. I snap my head to the left at the fall of a tiny leaf and direct my gaze at an almost-imperceptible rustling in the undergrowth. And there, I smell — no, I see — their trail.
It’s hard to explain. I know, somewhere inside, where my human form is caged, that I have picked up Lance and Cecil’s scent. But through these lupine eyes and nostrils, it is as if I see it. Like a glowing green mist, snaking through the trunks of the trees, wending its way into the darkness of the forest. Darkness which, of course, I can see through as clear as day.
I do whatever the wolfish equivalent of a laugh is and drop to my four feet, throwing back my head and letting out a ululating howl. Instinct has kicked in: I feel driven by a compulsion to rescue the members of my pack, then rip to shreds whoever has threatened them, not resting until my fur is slick with their blood.
For I am wolf.
And, boy, am I mad.
The green mist of their trail grows stronger as I crash through the forest. Branches bend and snap in my wake; I leap over felled trunks and jagged boulders with animalistic ease. At a fork in the path however, I pause. Here the trail splits in two, one strand heading to the left, the other — fainter — to the right. I am forced to make a choice.
From the unmistakable whiff of sweaty leather, I can tell the stronger scent comes from Cecil. I turn my head from side to side, contemplating my decision. The Minotaur — though strung as high as a giant’s kite — is more likely to be able to handle whatever situation he’s gotten himself into. Old blind Lance, with his worrisome habit of turning as still as a statue at the imminent threat of violence, is another matter. I growl, then sprint to the right, following the wispy trail of Sir Lancelot.
I don’t have far to go. As the scent solidifies, I am able to see him up ahead. Sure enough, he’s stood stock-still in the middle of a small clearing, his hands clasped above his head. I glance around, looking for a sign of whatever has captured him. At first, I see nothing, then I notice what appears to be a pale blue glow pulsating around the petrified knight’s body. My first thought is of Merlin and his magics, but my keen senses cut through my suspicions and identify the real culprits behind my companions’ disappearance.
Like a swarm of magical fleas, they envelop poor Lance’s immobile body. As I watch, they flit this way and that, up and down, in front and behind. Unpicking every thread of his clothing as they do so.
I know what they’re up to. The little blighters are like parasites: as soon as they’ve got Lance stripped naked, they’ll be able to take control of him and he’ll become nothing more than a mindless automaton, inhabited by a colony of spite-filled sprites. Any vestige of what he used to be will be gone, swallowed up by the ravaging horde of little blue mites and made to carry out their nefarious schemes.
Unless I stop them.
Which, of course, presents me with a bit of a problem. If I was still in my human form and had my weapons with me, I could load up my rocket launcher with tear gas and blast them off him. Sure, Lance would end up with a bit of a sore head — and possibly a violent allergic reaction — but at least he’d still be him.
As it stands, all I have are four paws and a mouthful of giant teeth, none of which are much use against a swarm of foes so small and nimble they could dodge out the way of any attacks with ease. It’s enough to make the fur on the back of my neck stand up.
… the thick, lustrous and tangled fur …
I leap into the clearing, landing with a snarl. The swarm of pixies pulsates, shaping itself into a blue cloud of malevolence. I stand my ground, baring my teeth and puffing out my fur as much as I can manage.
There’s a pause: a long, long moment of silence. Lance is still motionless, three-quarters of his trousers already dismantled. I flex my muscles, ready to leap at a moment’s notice. And the pixie swarm hangs in the air, so close to me now that I can make out their leering little faces.
And then they’re on me.
I’d hoped it would work: that the prospect of controlling a werewolf and having a cosy pelt to nest in would be too tempting for them to be able to resist. As one, they depart from Lance and make a pixie-line straight for me. I tense, but stay motionless, allowing every last one of them to burrow into the furthest recesses of my fur.
I wait for a second or two, until I feel their tiny blue hands begin to try and claw their way in deeper.
Then I howl with triumph, flip onto my back, kick my legs in the air and roll vigorously about in the dirt until every last one of them is little more than a tiny blue stain on my coat.
‘Lance!’ I snap at a straggler with my already-transforming jaws, crunching him like a little pixie-shaped dog treat. ‘Lance, are you okay?’
‘My .. my lady?’ He blinks. Apart from his shredded costume, he appears none the worse for the pixies’ onslaught. I breathe a sigh of relief, one which segues seamlessly into a gasp of embarrassment as I realise I’m now back in human form. And my clothes are in a ripped pile left rather inconveniently about half a mile away. Seldom have I been more glad that poor old Lance is blind.
‘Where’s Cecil?’ I say, instinctively grabbing a leafy branch and covering myself with it as best I can.
‘Alas, my lady. There were two swarms of the accursed creatures. The first led me to this dire place; the larger of the two descended upon our unfortunate horned companion.’
‘We need to try and find him, quickly. This is the last sort of thing we need to be facing right now!’ I try to get myself worked up again, hoping that I’ll feel the tell-tale signs of my transformation. But, though I am still a bit miffed to say the least, I’m not overflowing with the same rage I felt earlier.
‘There is no need, my lady.’
At first I’m puzzled as to what he means. Then, with a mighty crash, two large trees explode into splinters and I see what he’s getting at.
Or rather it’s the creature which used to be Cecil, glaring at us with glowing blue eyes as he stampedes towards us with a gigantic spiked club…