Book By Its Cover
by Drue Fairlie
The village of Danielsburg
was a small place, small but contented. It had an almost picture postcard beauty. Set, as it was at the mouth of a long deep
valley. A great fir tree forest covered most of the valley floor, thick dark and lush, the trees packed in close and only
thinning as they climbed the valley sides.
The village itself was lovely,
a place where lovers went for a romantic break or newlyweds for their honeymoon. It could almost have come straight out of
Or at lest that was the case
until about three months ago, just at the start of spring. It was then that the first dead sheep had started to turn up. Their
throats ripped out. At first it was thought it was stray dogs but none were ever seen and no matter where traps were set or
how cunningly they were hidden they were always empty the next day.
Nothing seemed to work, each
night traps were laid and each morning another one or
two sheep were found dead
and the traps empty. No one was really worried, what
are one or two sheep. But
when a hiker disappeared in early May the town council
decided that they might have
a more serious problem than they at first thought. It was not
uncommon for people to disappear
in the mountains, after all accidents happen. People
can fall while climbing, or
if they are not prepared for the weather they can be taken
Unawares by a sudden storm.
But the man who had disappeared
had been coming to Danielsburg for the past fifteen years and knew the forest and mountains very well.
The search and rescue teams
looked for the lost hiker for almost a week before the
search was called off. Even
if someone was lost or hurt the search teams had always
managed to find them (it was
somewhat a point of pride with them that they always found
the people that got lost).
And still the sheep kept turning up dead. Even when the
council hired some local layabouts
to watch the flocks at night. (You know the kind of
people, drunks mostly or barroom
brawlers). The council knew that these riffraff had next
to no hope of catching whoever
or whatever was killing the sheep but they hoped that the
noise they made all night
would scare whomever it was off.
It worked for the first two
nights but the third night was a nightmare. At about three in
the morning four of the five
men the council had set to watch the flocks came running in
to the village square shouting
and screaming at the top of their voices.
The head of the council and
local shopkeeper John Green came out to meet these four men, his nightshirt flapping in the breeze.
"Hey, hey what’s all
this, what are you men doing back here. You were paid to watch the
sheep"? Said John.
"You can forget that John,
there is no way we’re going back out there tonight, or any other night." Said Dave Williams, the leader of the men sent
out to watch the sheep and the leading town drunk and troublemaker.
"What’s the matter Dave,
moon shadows scare you," said John sarcastically.
"No John not moon shadows
there’s something out there, something very big and very
"Come on Dave, are you sure
the bottle didn’t get the better of you again."
"Tell you what John," said
Dave looking up at him "You can say what you like, call it
the bottle ,call it moon shadows,
call me a coward if you like but I’ll not go out there at
night again for any money."
"Nor me," called a voice from
"Me neither," said another.
"Now hang on a minute Dave,"
said the mayor, becoming very serious. "The council paid you all a lot of money to watch the flocks for two weeks and you’ve
only been out there three days."
Dave didn’t reply, he
simply walked up to John and dropped the money he’d been paid
on the ground at his feet.
The other three men behind
him did the same. As they walked off Dave said over his
"If you want Carl’s
share it’s still out there with him I hope you have better luck than we
did finding him."
John stared at the backs of
the four men as they walked off, then down at the gold
they had dropped on the floor
.It Gleamed faintly in the moonlight.
The next day he went looking
for Dave and the rest of his drinking buddies. He found
them in the first place he
looked, the one and only pub in the village. The white star was a
very old pub, in fact it was
the oldest building in Dainelsburg and one of the few made
wholly of stone. It was run
by a big jolly man, Sam Page but most people simply called
"Hi Barrel," said John, more
cheerfully than he felt "Have you seen Dave and the rest of
"Have I," said the innkeeper,
nodding to the far side of his bar. "Their over there in the corner. They’ve been here since I opened, and it looks
like they will be here till I throw them out."
John Look over to where Barrel
had pointed. And sure enough there they were. As he walked over he couldn’t help wondering what had happened to the
fifth man Carl Browning, another drunk but to be fair he never did any harm to anyone and in John’s opinion Carl was
the best of this bad lot.
"Ok then Dave what happened
last night, what scared you that much that you would give up nearly a months drinking money, and what happened to Carl he’s
still not turned up"?
"Bugger off John I don’t
want to talk about it," said the groups leader, never looking up from his beer.
"Well that’s tough Dave,"
said the mayor sitting down. "Something scared you last night, scared you bad, and I need to know what it was. I need to know
if I have to call the police in Graysville."
Graysville was the largest
town in the area and the only one in fifty miles that had a
permanent police force.
"Look I’m not sure what
we saw," Dave said, still not looking up.
"Come on Da…."
John stopped in mid sentence
as he looked at these men, he could see that they were still
scared, as he looked at them
all the anger went out of him. It wasn’t their fault what was
happening. John turned round
and shouted across the pub to barrel.
"Another round here barrel
when you ready."
"Ok John right away," replied
the large innkeeper
After Barrel had brought the
drinks John said.
"Ok then lets start again,
I need to know what happened out there I really do."
"Alright John" said Dave looking
at him for the first time. "But I don’t think you’re going to like it."
"Try me," answered the major
The other men at the table
fell silent as Dave started to tell their story.
"As you know the first couple
of nights went off without a hitch, well last night started
off just the same, we checked
the flock every half-hour just like you said and made
enough noise so that whoever
it was knew that someone was about. Well it must have been about one in the morning when Carl said that he heard something."
For a moment Dave drifted
off his, eyes glassy in memory.
"Well Dave what happened then,"
Said John, leaning closer.
"That’s just it John,
I’m not really sure. First Carl shouted about seeing something at the edge of the forest (The village grassed their
sheep just at the edge of the forest where the grass was best). Then he just ran off after whatever he saw, we heard him for
"And," prompted the mayor..
"And nothing John," continued
Dave. "He just seemed to disappear, not a sound not anything it was like he had never been out there. We went as far into
the forest as we could at night but nothing."
"Ok, that’s Carl." Said
the mayor, trying to deal with one problem at a time. "I’ll send search parties out today to look for him, but what
"It was the shadows John,
the shadows under the trees," said Dave, almost to himself..
"Come on Dave," said the mayor,
trying to stifle a laugh.
"I tell you that’s what
it was," said Dave getting angry. "There was something wrong about them, they didn’t move right, it was like they were
watching us, waiting."
"You have got to be joking,"
said the mayor, unable to hide his disbelief.
Dave jumped up from his chair.
"Am I John, do I look like
I am, you weren’t there you don’t know. You think you’re so
tough. You spend a night out
by the forest edge that might change your mind. Who knows you might even meet poor Carl." And with that he stormed out, followed
closely by his friends.
John sat at the table and
for the second time in one day watched these four men walk off. He sat there for a very long time. Then coming to a decision
he rose and went to find the other members of the village council.
"This is madness John you
can’t mean to do this," said James Easterling, the village barber and John’s second in command on the council
John had called a meeting
of the council to tell them of his plan but they were not taking
"But I do James, but if you’ve
got a better idea then I’m willing to listen," said John in reply. "When it was just sheep then it was an inconvenience
but that hiker has never turned up and now Carl, who’s next."
"Listen," said John quietly
"What other choice is there, if you can show me a better
hunter or someone who knows
the forest better than me, or is a better shot then we can
send them hunting for this
whatever it is."
"You know the answer to that
John". Said James
"Yes James I do," said John
softly. "So let’s stop pretending that we can send someone else, when we know that it has to be me."
"Ok then John," said James,
at last giving in to his friend. "Let’s hear your plan."
"It’s very simple really,
I think the reason that we have been unable to catch whatever or whoever it is, is that it’s been watching us. Each
time we go into the forest whatever it is has already seen us coming and made off. So my plan is for a little miss direction,
just like a magician we will make it watch our left hand while we do the trick with our right."
"What on earth are you on
about John," asked James, a confused look on his face.
"Ok James," answered John
smiling. To put it simply, we put as many people into the forest as we can, as quickly as we can so that their number can
only be guessed at, then in all the confusion I will slip away and hide and wait. After a couple of hours when everyone comes
back to the village I’ll be hidden, waiting and whoever is killing our sheep will think it is alone in the forest again
and come out but this time things will be
"I don’t know John,
it sounds very dangerous," said James, shaking his head.
"Yes James, you’re right
but what choice do we have," asked John quietly.
"Well, if you put it like
that," said James, resigning himself to that fact that john was right. "None I guess. When do you want to do this."
"We will wait until another
sheep is killed then it will look more unrehearsed," answered John grimly.
They didn’t have long
to wait. It was only two days before another sheep was killed
"Ok James," said John "You
know what to do get them all out shouting and making as
much noise as possible and
if all goes well I will see you very soon."
James looked at his friend
for a long moment and then without saying a word ran off to
gather the villagers.
John took a few minutes
"Ok have I got every thing,"
he said to himself.
"Rifle, knife, food, torch."
The list went on, but he was unsure what he would need.
He knew he would have to move
very quickly, but he would also have to take everything
he needed, It was a difficult
balance. But soon he was ready and went and joined the
crowd that was heading for
In all the noise and confusion
the villagers made it was quite easy for John to slip away
unnoticed. He found himself
a tree quite near the forest edge, set back enough so that
the shadows of the other trees
would cover him. He climbed up and settled down for what
he knew was going to be a
It was nearly two in the morning
before John heard anything, and even then it was only
because the forest had grown
At first he thought he had
imagined it, but no, there it was again, the slow steady sound of
someone walking over the forest
floor. Anyone else might well have heard nothing at all.
But John had been raised in
the forest, he knew that what he was hearing was no
animal. An animal will stop
and forage and then move on. But this sound was moving
quickly, straight to the edge
of the forest.
At first John couldn’t
make anything out at all, then just like a magic eye picture he suddenly saw a single shadow move among the others. A shadow
that didn’t seem to be cast by anything but had a life of its own. As he watched, this shadow it moved to the forest
edge and stopped.
"It’s waiting to see
if we have laid any traps," John thought to himself.
After about fifteen minutes
the shadow moved out in to the moonlight. What John saw or
rather what he thought he
saw at first scared him right down to his soul. Because standing
there in the moonlight was
a living and breathing werewolf. He sat there frozen with fear
unable to lift his rifle,
unable even to move. But then the creature moved and John saw
that it was in fact a man,
just a man but wearing the whole skin and head of a wolf.
He let out a sigh, it wasn’t
much of a noise but even so this strange man heard it
and spinning round looked
right up at John. The next few minutes happened all at once.
The wolfman (as John thought
of him) pulled a gun out of nowhere and fired, the bullet
taking a large chunk out of
the tree just by John’s head. John instinctively fired back,
his shot was on target and
hit the wolfman in the left shoulder the man howled like the
wolf he thought he was and
dashed back into the forest.
John was out of the tree in
a heartbeat, but as quick as he was he almost lost his pray, the man was as quick as anything John had seen. In fact had he
not been wounded John doubted he could have kept up. He chased the man for almost an hour before he lost him at the base of
a over hanging moss covered cliff.
"Where did he go," thought
John as he looked about trying to find the wolf man’s trail.
John was so busy looking around
that he forgot to look down and fell head first over a
large tree root. As he lay
there he noticed something strange with the cliff face in front of
him. If he had been standing
upright he would never have seen it but his fall had put his
line of sight at a different
angle and there in front of him way a way into the cliff. It was
only big enough for a crouching
man but it was there never the less. That was where the
wolfman must have gone.
So gripping his rifle a little
tighter and realizing that this might well be a trap John walked softly into the cave .
The entrance twisted and turned
for about a hundred yards before opening up into a large cavern. As John walked into the torchlight lit cavern, he saw the
wolfman lying on the floor in front of him.
"Ok you, don’t move,"
Said John, more bravely than he felt.
But not a sound came from
the figure on the floor. John walked over and kicked the
man’s foot but he didn’t
"I think he’s passed
out," came a voice from the back of the cavern.
"John spun round in a flash,
rifle and touch held out in front of him.
"Who’s there," he said
walking slowly forward.
As he walking into the shadows,
his small touch casting more shadows than it banished.
He continued to call out into
"Come on come out. There’s
no point in hiding."
"I’m not hiding," came
the unseen voice again.
As his touch light fell onto
the back of the cavern John was amazed at what he saw.
Chained to the wall was the
most beautiful woman that he had ever seen.
"My god, what’s been
going on here".
"The woman looked at John
for a moment and then burst into tears.
"I don’t believe it,
are you real," she said between sobs "I’d almost given up hope of
someone finding me."
"It’s ok, yes I’m
real, my name’s John. Who are you," said John, putting down his rifle
and trying to free the young
"My names Martina," she said
"That man kidnapped me about three weeks ago."
"What did he want with you,"
asked John, imagining all sorts of things but never expecting the answer she gave him.
"He was going to sacrifice
me at the full moon, he thought it would make him a wolf for
John stopped and looked at
her "Are you serious."
"Yes he…. Look out."
John heard the man running
at him at almost the same time that Martina had shouted.
He dived out of the way just
as a knife blade passed through the air where his head had been moments before. Grabbing his rifle he had no choice but to
shot the man down. As he slumped against the cave wall he said.
"Don’t let her go."
Then he died.
John stared down at the man,
this strange want to be wolf and felt a wave of sadness roll
over him what makes a man
want to be like that.
"Mister, hey mister," said
Martina urgently. He has a key for these chains, he wears it around his neck."
John knelt down, and talking
the small key from the dead man moved back to the chained
girl and unlocked her, as
he did he noticed that the manacles and chains were all inlayed with silver.
As soon as he freed her the
girl ran over to the dead man and said
"Ah Markus, you were so close,
so close, but now I’m free again and this time you can’t
"Hang on, what’s really
going on here," Said John.
"A very old feud," Said Martina,
as she turned round and smiled at John. "One that Markus here almost won, but thanks to you he has lost forever. He wasn’t
trying to become a wolf," she said walking slowly towards john "He was trying to stop one."
"But I thought…" stammered
"I know what you thought John,"
She said her smile growing larger so that moonlight flickered and glinted off of her growing fangs.
"But didn’t your mother
ever tell you to never judge a book by its cover."