When Hans awakens he finds that he is nestled comfy in his bed with the sheets wrapped loosely around him. On instinct he touches his face and finds that it is how it should be. Relief washes over him as he dares to think that everything he remembers about turning into a wolf and tearing Patrice apart may have just been some terrible nightmare.
Then Hans becomes aware of growing noises that are unmistakably a collection of voices. He wonders what it is. He is sure he isn’t dreaming, which means that it must be real. He is awake after all, so that would make sense. Though, initially when he had heard it he had assumed that it was a part of some dream.
He remembers hearing what he can only describe as chanting in the moments before he’d awoken. It may have even been why he woke. However, it is clear now that it was not a dream and so he rolls out of bed. This time he lands squarely on his feet. He remembers the last time he tried a similar manoeuvre it didn’t end this way. Not that he pays the thought much mind as he makes his way across the short distance from his bed to the small square window at the front of his cabin. It is covered with a thin floral cloth that lets in a good amount of light. He pulls the cloth back and peers through the thin glass only to find a mob armed with torches, pitchforks and other tools advancing toward him.
At first Hans is confused. He doesn’t understand why they are headed this way or why in broad daylight they are armed with torches. He doesn’t even consider the assortment of tools in the majority of the people’s hands as he backs away from the window, allowing the cloth to blot out a small percentage of the daylight that would otherwise shine through.
Hans knows he has to face whatever this is and so makes a beeline for his door only to find it in ruins. Immediately, upon seeing the remains of his door his stomach flips and fear sets in. It is clear that everything he remembers from yesterday is not a dream. He wonders whether he should dare step foot outside, but soon concludes that there is little choice. The mob are too close now and his cabin windows too small for him to squeeze through and escape. So he dares to leave the unsecure confines of his rectangular shaped cabin.
Now outside, he descends the steps and then stands waiting with his arms folded across his chest. His heart is thundering loudly and it is all he can hear in his ears. That saddens him as it means he is missing the songs of the birds who will be safely in their nests high up in the firs.
After a while, during which the mob are still advancing, Hans realises there are no bird songs, which he marks as odd in the moment before he spies the bloody remains.
Hans’ eyes go wide as it becomes apparent that Patrice really is dead. He doesn’t know why he hadn’t considered it when he’d seen the ruins of his door, but he hadn’t. Though, it makes it clear that nothing from last night or any other has been a dream. Hans curses everything and everyone, but most of all himself. If he hadn’t got caught out in the forest that night none of this would have happened. Then he wonders if he has time to dispose of the remains. He doubts the mob, who he now realises are clearly here for him, will need its presence to condemn him. But the reality is he really doesn’t have the time to dispose of it he knows, and then the mob arrives.
It took them less time to cover the ground than he would have anticipated. However, he doesn’t know how long he was lost in his thoughts, so could easily be wrong.
Still, the man casts his blue eyes over the assembled group who are all snarling and sneering back at him. It is clear they mean him ill. I should have just run, he concludes before asking, “What’s going on?”
It’s an honest enough question he thinks even if he knows full well why they are here.
“You know why, you demon!” One man cries only for a half dozen others to chime in with cries of, “Monster! Beast! Animal! Murderer! Villain! Scum!” And many other negative names that he can’t honestly refute.
“Now, I don’t know what’s going on here. Can’t we just talk about this?” Hans says trying to reason with the mob. A mob who seem to be growing more impatient with every passing moment, as they fidget and shift their primitive weapons and body weight in anticipation of the justice they are so desperately hoping to deliver.
“You know full well what you’ve done.” An accusing clergyman spits as he jabs his forefinger angrily in the direction of Hans.
The carpenter raises his hands in response, as if he is trying to signal peace, while urging, “I swear to you I do not know what is going on.” The problem is that as he delivers the statement he feels his face begin to twitch. This is not the time, he says to himself sternly.
But it isn’t and an incredible shot of panic surges through him at that moment. As it does he recalls what happened the last time he experienced a similar event.
That is why right then he considers running. He never gets further than it being a consideration however as he knows that if he does then he will be condemning himself as a guilty man in the eyes of the people of Baracen, and he has no intention of handing them that deliberation with such ease. So he continues to speak instead, trying to ignore the twitch as he says, “Friends, neighbours, you have this all wrong. I am a simple carpenter. I have never done any soul harm. You know this. You know me.”
Unfortunately, what is given in response to his pleas and attempts at placation are for a dozen fingers all of which are pointed toward the nearby bloody remains.
Hans immediately claims are the remains of a deer. His proclamations are met with doubting scoffs before a woman asks, “How did it come to die and end up in this state, then?”
Hans knows he has to think fast. However, even he is surprised when he claims, “A bear passed through here last night. It killed the deer but only after having caused the devastation to my cabin door.”
Hans lets his words sink in, but only for a few moments. If he left it any longer he is sure more words would have been fired his way and so he adds, “If the deer had not come through when it did, then I would have met a similar fate.”
It is at this point that Hans points to the carcass. He hopes the act will help his claim that the carcass is the remains of a deer.
“Lies!” Is the unified cry that comes back as the mob begin to advance.
They know the carcass is what remains of poor Patrice. A man who, until the day he died, was always been considered to be the nicest man to have ever lived in Baracen. And that was saying a lot.
He didn’t deserve the fate he suffered, especially not at the hands of whatever beast Hans really is, who Patrice dared to call and treat as a friend. Those are the thoughts that go through every one of the citizens’ heads.
They don’t care what Hans is however. They just want justice for Patrice and removal of this monster from their otherwise idyllic corner of the world.
But at that moment Hans collapses to the ground. An unbearable pain shoots through his body. He begs for the pain to stop. He knows what will come next if it doesn’t. His pleas however, go unheard as he begins to morph and change into Wolf Hans.
The mob, who at the sight of the cries from Hans stopped their advancement, now take a couple steps back.
They watch in horror as Hans’ changes and morphs before their very eyes into something that would never have dreamed in their wildest nightmares.
If they were not so horrified they might have realised that right now would have been the perfect time for them to strike. But they are so aghast at what they are witnessing that it doesn’t dawn on them that such a thing is even a possibility.
Then, with the transformation complete, Wolf Hans howls and shifts his red angry eyes to the mob before him. Wolf Hans is hungry, ravenous even, and glares at the terrified faces that are staring back at him. The beast enjoys the terror that radiates from each and every one of them and can smell their fear, which is almost intoxicating in its potency.
Hans, the man, screams for the mob to run. But the people can’t hear him as all that leaves his now wolf mouth are growls and shows of large sharp white teeth, which are put on show for all in the mob to see.
Suddenly, the mob seem to find their confidence as the horrified and fearful expressions on their collective faces ease and then quickly become dark rage filled ones instead.
It is clear that the mob have now realised that they so vastly outnumber the beast before them that it is they who have the power here and not the thing that had been Hans less than two minutes earlier.
Hans, the human consciousness trapped inside his now wolf body, is about to urge the animalistic part of him to run when a burst of pain shoots through their shoulder. Both Hans’ turn their attention to the pain to find a prong of a hay fork is plunged a good depth into their thick fur covered flesh. Red blood slowly wells up from around the edges of the puncture wound, matting the fur.
Hans, wolf and man, pull away from the plump middle aged woman who is snarling as she grips tightly on the shaft of the hay fork. The prong pulls cleanly from the beasts shoulder with the only response being a low growl of discomfort.
We have to run, Hans screams and urges repeatedly. He is sure that if they stay then death is a guarantee, as there is no way Wolf Hans will be able to combat the collective who are armed and very angry.
Suddenly, the primal wolf consciousness, which had thus far always been in control of the wolf form that Hans now has, disappears. Hans blinks in shock. He doesn’t understand what is going on, or how he has wrestled control from it to regain ownership over his body, even if it is very different in appearance. Still, as the mob begins to move, in slow-motion, toward him he pushes his shock aside and wills his legs to turn about and explode into a run. His four fur covered legs obey and within the blink of an eye Hans, in wolf form, is tearing rapidly across the moss and then into the forest. The speed of his movements so incredible that the mob take nearly a full minute to realise that he is no longer among them. Once they register this however, they to turn in the direction the beast fled and explode into movement of their own. Their collective pace is much slower than that of Hans’, but unlike the beast they, the angry group, roar and bellow cries of violence and murder as they give pursuit.
Not that Hans pays any mind to the chants, cries, roars and screams coming from behind him as he darts left and right to avoid the massive fir tree trunks.
Dirt beneath his feet is thrown in long arcs behind his paws as his claws dig and shift the loose confetti that makes up the forest floor.
Unfortunately, the debris plumes behind him cannot be avoided. If it could then Hans would.
He suspects however, that to eradicate them he would have to dramatically reduce his pace. He has no wish to do that as he would almost certainly be swarmed by the mob as a result. A mob that now begins to launch missiles in the form of pitchforks and knives in his direction.
Hans looks over his furry shoulder to get a glance at the weapons being hurled his way. As soon as he does he realises that he needs to act and so immediately begins to dodge them by throwing leaps and four legged sidesteps into his zigzagging darts.
The actions make him almost impossible to hit, but not entirely. That’s why a few of the smaller projectiles, which Hans did not catch sight of until it was too late, hit their mark. In response to each of the impacts Hans responds with a growl. He refuses to howl. To do so would likely only spur his attackers on more by giving them hope that their focal point of rage is wounded and weakened.
Hans knows he can’t allow them to believe that as he has no way of anticipating what reaction might come as a result. So instead, he continues to dart, leap and sidestep forward, while making sure that he doesn’t move in a straight line for too long.
That doesn’t mean that the wolf who is also a man can’t feel the wounds that have been inflicted upon his thick fur covered body. He can, and the pain is gnawing and sapping him of his reserves and then Hans sees the forest end.
It’s happened much sooner than he anticipated. He curses and then notes that the ground a bit further ahead of him falls away. In that moment Hans realises where he is. He is on the far side of the Plinyen Forest, which means that the falling away of the ground ahead of him is the great Qopengun waterfall.
Qopengun has a massive six hundred and ten metre drop to the ground below, which is more than enough to kill any animal, Hans knows.
The sound of the rushing water of Qopengun is a cacophonous and unrelenting drone as it roars over the edge and then plummets down to the basin below before the river continues to snake across the land heading south to the coast that is some four hundred miles away.
Hans has seen the view of the land before from this vantage point many a time. And each of his visits to this beauty spot have filled him with wonder. But he isn’t here to take in the view, which is just as well as he isn’t in the mood and simply ignores it as he instead, circles so that he can double back. But as soon as he finishes his circling he finds that the mob have caught him and blocked his path back to safety.
Hans growls and barks at the collective of angry Baracen citizens. Alas, Hans’ primal noises have no effect now however, and so, the mob simply continues to advance toward him, slowly. Their weapons brandished high as their faces sit in twisted almost delighted expressions, which make it clear to Hans that they are overjoyed to have a chance to kill him. That horrifies Hans. He might have been party to the slaughter of Patrice, but at no point was he a willing part of his oldest friends death. He wishes more than anything that he could take it back, but he can’t. The past cannot be changed, no matter how much one might want it to. So Hans does the only thing he can, back up. He glances over his shoulder from time to time as he does, seeing the ever reducing platform which the mob are taking from him. He wonders if he should lash out at them. As though, in doing such a thing it might give him an opening to escape. However, he knows it won’t. If he lashes out at those who have him cornered he will simply be stabbed and skewered until life leaves his body. That is not how he will go out. He will not give the people he thought were friends and neighbours the pleasure they so desperately crave.
He even wonders if it is he who is the real monster or them. He had no control over his actions, while they have complete authority over their own. He doubts they would see the irony in this as he concludes his only option is to jump. Death will then be on his terms and no one else’s.
So he growls, barks and bears his huge white teeth. The display of aggression is enough to give the crowd pause for just long enough that Hans is able to turn and race toward what he knows will be his death.
Hans feels only tendrils of fear wrap themselves around his chest, suffocating him. He manages to hold them at bay as he reaches the sudden vertical drop.
Something in the back of his mind screams for him to stop, but he ignores it and leaps as far and as high as he can into the air.
For a few seconds Hans, in wolf form, soars through the empty air. But then the forces of gravity take over. Hans realises and feels it as soon as it happens, and then he drops like a stone. But he refuses to howl or scream as he plummets.
The mob, who are in shock, stand collectively at the edge of the cliff watching as the beast that had once been Hans grows smaller and smaller until finally he disappears from sight entirely. They hear no bang or crash of his body impacting the ground below, but they know he is dead. Disappointment fills many of them as they had hoped to get justice and revenge for themselves. Instead, they are forced to take solace in the fact that the monster that killed Patrice is dead.