The full moon glowed in the sky, offering a little light as Candella perched at her sister’s bedside, listening for her shallow breathing. Candella had long blonde hair done up in a braid encircling her head. Her sister’s hair was short and brown, but they both had heart shaped faces and brown eyes like their mother, though Candella was taller than her mother, now that she had turned nineteen. She left for a moment to find fresh bandages. Her little sister Emaline had been playing in the woods when the werewolf found her. Emaline screamed when it bit her arm, and the noise had led Candella there to witness it.
The beast had a protruding snout and fangs as long as her hand. It was unlike any wolf she’d seen, standing upright like a human, with wide feet and a filthy tunic adorning its body. Its amber eyes held her transfixed, and her breath caught in her throat for a moment. Seeing the beast with its fangs in her sister’s arm, she clenched the sword in her hand and charged at it. The werewolf reacted faster than her, releasing Emaline and leaping into some nearby bushes, its powerful muscled arms allowing it to climb like an ape. Candella dropped her sword to the ground, the object suddenly seeming meaningless. She scooped up Emaline, tears streaming down her face. Emaline clung to Candella as she scurried home. Never before had she run so quickly, fearful the whole way that the werewolf would follow her.
The cottage they lived in was small; a log cabin, and she opened the door quickly. Her mom was hunched over the kitchen counter, knife in hand, cleaning the fish she’d caught. She glanced up quickly at the sound of Candella opening the door, and dropped the knife when she saw her.
“What happened! You were supposed to protect her!” she said, furious as she took Emaline from Candella’s arms. After treating the bite, her mother left Candella with Emaline. Candella waited for hours until finally, Emaline stirred.
“Emaline! Please, wake up!” Candella exclaimed. Emaline’s eyes opened slowly.
“I don’t feel right. Like everything feels fuzzy.” Candella nodded, but froze in fear when she realized Emaline meant it literally, and tiny hairs sprouted on her arm.
“Oh no!” Candella gasped. She grabbed Emaline’s hand.
“I’m here for you sis! I’m sorry if I was ever mean to you. You can sing any song you want at the top of your lungs when we fetch water, and I won’t tell you to stop! You can kick my chair at dinner and I won’t tattle! Wear that silly bow you like, the one I said makes you look like you have bat ears: I lied, it’s actually really cute. Do whatever you like! Just don’t turn into a werewolf, please!” Candella’s tears dotted the blanket as Emaline sat up in the bed, looking over at her with golden eyes. Candella’s mom heard her pleading and burst into the room.
“What’s going on?” She said, looking down at the transforming Emaline.
“Are you still in there?” Candella whispered. Emaline lunged at Candella, ready to bite her. Candella crashed into the wooden floor, grabbing Emaline by the shoulders and pushing to keep her fangs at bay. Her arms shook. Surely she couldn’t hurt her little sister? Emaline’s ears became fuzzy and triangular, and cartilage shifted and warped until they sat atop her head. Her hands sprouted thick, black claws as her fingers shrunk and her nose and mouth protruded obscenely from her face. Candella’s mother wrapped her arms around Emaline’s waist and pulled, causing Emaline to turn and bite her on the arm. Candella shoved the beast that was once Emaline off her mother and Emaline went crashing through a window.
Candella’s whole body was shaking. Her hands went to her sword, thoughts drifting to the training she’d received to be Lady Theode’s knight. Ever since early childhood, she’s spared with all the other students, advancing from wooden swords to real ones. She’d remembered all the splinters, the bruises she’d feel days later, the triumph of her opponents changing from gloating at their victories to surrendering to her as her strength increased. All of it felt hollow as she glared at the hole in the window. Lady Theode had given Candella this holiday to spend with her family and only days after, her sister was transformed into a werewolf and wandering in the woods. Candella turned to her mother and started fussing over her injured arm. Her mother waved her off.
“Don’t worry about me, she didn’t bite that deep. Go get her back! But be careful!” Candella nodded, her voice failing her. She grabbed a sword from her room and crept out of the shattered window. Not only could Candella not let her sister run through the woods unprotected, she knew if she was forced to return to Lady Theode and ask for back up to protect her from her own sister, Lady Theode wouldn’t trust her for protection again. Candella traced Emaline’s trail, her laser guided vision locking on to every broken twig and wet footprint, even in the scarce light of the moon. The forest before her was dense. Raccoons hustled away from her and the steady noise of footfalls could be heard nearby. She slunk through the bushes, crouching low, until she heard voices and raced for the cover of a thick tree trunk. She looked down into a valley in front of her, seeing two heavily armed men talking. Beside them was Emaline, the wolf, bound with ropes. Candella’s heart caught in her throat. She watched the men.
“Liam, you’re sure Queen Fleta will pay us the prize money for catching this werewolf?” A man with red hair and scarred arms asked his companion, a taller man with curly brown hair.
“What do you mean?” Liam said. “Of course she will.” Red hair turned around to stare at Emaline, and then whirled right back to the other man.
“But this werewolf is smaller than the one she described that’s attacking people. Wasn’t it supposed to be as tall as an adult?” Liam sighed.
“Don’t you see Rufus? It doesn’t matter if this is the same werewolf! I’m sure Queen Fleta will pay us as long as we’re getting these menaces out of the woods.” Candella cautiously stepped out from behind the trees.
“Excuse me. That werewolf is my little sister, I’d be grateful if you could return her to me.” Rufus and Liam exchanged a glance before laughing.
“She’s not your sister anymore. She’s a beast. The only way to deal with werewolves is to put them down, or sell them for a profit. Don’t you know that?” Candella shook her head. She stared at Emaline. She looked nothing like the little girl she once knew, but her wolf ears were bent flat against her head, and she was whimpering pitifully. The look stabbed at her heart, and she turned to the men and said;
“I don’t believe you! Give her back!” Rufus scoffed.
“Fine, I’ll have to knock some sense into you.” He raised his sword to strike Candella, who blocked it with ease and pushed him back. His eyes widened, but he lifted his sword again, and slashed against her sword, sparks flying. Emaline chewed at her ropes as the fight went on, with Candella parrying Rufus’s next strike and slashing him shallowly across the arms. He leaped back from the pain, yelling at Candella.
“Where did you learn to fight like that?” Candella blocked his next hit, but his sword managed to slash her across the shoulder, she gasped in pain, but thrust her sword forward once more and stabbed Rufus in the bicep. He dropped his sword and pulled away from her quickly. During the scuffle, Liam dove after Emaline-who had squirmed out of the ropes-and snatched her up, putting her in a headlock.
“I’ve got your werewolf! Put down your sword, girl, or I’ll snap her neck and sell her fur!” Candella placed her blade on the ground slowly. Rufus grabbed the sword and pointed it at Candella, but instead of attacking, he held it up steadily and walked backwards until he was next to Liam.
“Liam, let’s get out of here.”
“Shouldn’t we take care of the girl?” Liam said, inclining his head to Candella, confused. He adjusted his hold on the squirming Emaline.
“Any of the humans in this forest could end up as werewolves we can sell later! Why cut down our future profits? Let’s get out of here.” Rufus declared, and they both turned to go. Then Emaline bit hard on Liam’s arm and he dropped her.
“She bit me!” He screamed. “What do I do? I can’t be a werewolf!” Emaline ran to Candella and jumped into her arms. Emaline seemed heavy to Candella now, but she felt warmth coursing through her heart, realizing that Emaline must recognize her, and must have retained some of their bond to come to her and not harm her.
“This is actually more convenient.” Rufus said to Liam. “You’re the right height, I bet when you turn into a wolf, Queen Fleta won’t know the difference between you and the werewolf she wants.” Liam shook his head.
“No! You can’t do this to me!” Candella awkwardly hobbled off with Emaline in her arms, completely forgotten by the thieves. She made it home to find a light grey wolf in her mother’s tattered clothes.
“Oh dear. I guess you’ll both be wolves every full moon, won’t you?” Candella sighed. Seeing that her mother wasn’t attacking her, she deduced that perhaps attacking family members was a temporary post-transformation side effect. “At least we’ll have twice the security every full moon.” Candella cleaned her wounds and laid out water dishes for her mom and sister, marveling over how strange this night had become.