The Werewolf Hunter
This all happened when I was a very young girl, and I’m very elderly now so it must’ve been a very, very long time ago. Our little village was being troubled by a predatory beast which was killing our sheep, and a few people too. Everyone was afraid and at their wit’s end, until a stranger appeared, sorta slunk in from nowhere; we didn’t get many, as we were somewhat “cut-off” from the rest of the world. Back then, travelling was wild and dangerous, and our community was pretty much everything.
The stranger had a ragged face, as if he’d seen a lot, and wise eyes, a sharp smile and a smooth way with words. He offered to end the slaughtering which plagued us, using an ancient way, though he wouldn’t divulge his tricks-of-the-trade until we’d paid him upfront; although the price was mighty, everyone coughed up. My daddy gave the silver spoon which was his only thing of true value. That night the stranger stalked the woods which encircled us, and next morning we all gathered bright and early to hear his results.
The stranger smiled nice and wide, and bade us to fear not, for he’d laid in wait and sliced a clawed finger clean off the beast’s mighty hand. It was a simple trick; as old as time. All we had to do, he said gently, was look to an outsider amongst us who was missing a finger, for even in human form, that digit would stay severed forever, as if cast off clean by God’s own wrath. “Look not for blood and such,” said the stranger, slick and treacly like a preacher, “for when I struck out at that foul fiend, my knife cauterised like divine lightning.”
And sure enough, in the old tavern sat a man none of us knew too well; a drifter named Ed, who slept somewhere out in the woods but popped into the village from time-to-time, maybe craving company. Ed sipped obliviously on whisky as if it were manna from Heaven; and lo, his left hand, sorta cradled inside his tattered jacket, was missing it’s little finger. He made desperate excuses about losing it in a war some years back, “fighting for your ingrate hides”, and he roared in anger as many men pounced upon him, tearing off his clothing to reveal mighty scars looking like marks of Cain. “looks like he’s been killin’ a long time, sure enough” people muttered, and we made sure to remember the stranger’s strict instructions, for he’d already set off, whistling merrily, to do more of The Lord’s work, with his payment bouncing over his shoulder in a big fat sack. He’d bade us to slice the shapeshifter’s skin clean off, so he’d never be able to make his dirty transformation into wolf-hide ever again. And damn, if Ed didn’t howl just like a wolf when thirty or forty daggers slid in, then I don’t know what in God’s name those sounds were.