Some weeks passed by with hopes high that the plague had passed. Of course, fate would not have Launsmill so fortunate. As the full moon approached, villagers started disappearing again. Farmer Rye’s wife was among them; he seemed to take upon the mantle of revenge. The night of the full moon arrived—and with it the howl of wolves. And from there…all hell broke loose.
Shiira shot up from bed with an insatiable urge to go outside. Moonlight trickled in, and she seemed thirsty to drink it up—thirsty for more. With the clatter of her daughter awaking, Lana stirred and awoke to see her daughter scramble outside…and turn into a wolf. In a sobbing mess, Lana stumbled to Gerrick, the watchman, and told him the dire news and asking him to find her and—if possible—not kill her. So Gerrick set off following the wolf tracks.
Meanwhile, a pack of wolves and an abomination of a wolfman raided the Church of Iomedae in their own plot for revenge. Mad Milligan caught wind of the attack from his place in the pig sty, and ran to get help. From Shiira. As he ran down the street, a wolf heard his screams and chased after the madman. Milligan’s screams also aroused Dwalin in his attempts to become intoxicated—and when the dwarf saw the wolf chasing the fool, he stood to face it down.
Back at the church, Sister Aquilas was violently awoken to the sound of a splintering door. Swiftly grabbing the morning star hanging above her bed, she emerged from her room to see the creatures howl—the leader pointing and yelling, “She’s the one!” Sister Aquilas’s retort was only appropriate as she told them the fires of Iomedae would consume them. With that, she locked herself in her room, stacking furniture against the door as she put on her armor.
As Gerrick searched the fields for the wolf-turned Shiira, he ran into Farmer Rye who was also hunting wolves. The two worked together to follow the tracks towards the church as Mad Milligan ran opposite of them. When he reached the item shop, Lana was bawling in the front room. The exhausted, sympathetic sobber joined the woman as she told him between breaths how her daughter was a wolf. Outside, Dwalin drove his hammer and pick into the wolf, felling it as Milligan started running back to the church.
Inside the church, Mary prayed to Iomedae for strength as the wolves finally burst through her bedroom door. Flame burst from her hands, setting the door frame and bed on fire, but also searing the wolves where they stood. She began to pick them off, one by one, enduring claws and bites and the fear of contracting lycanthropy. In these moments, Gerrick and Brown arrived at the church where another wolf and the leader stood in the doorway, seething at them. Pointing to the half-orc, the wolf beside its were-leader lunged forward—only to trip over its own feet and skid prone on its chin to the feet of the warriors. Unable to believe the incompetence of its follower, the wolf-man cursed and fled behind the church.
If the blatant clumsiness hadn’t tipped Gerrick to the wolf’s identity, its shiny black fur and deep, sapphire eyes surely did. Unfortunately for Shiira, Gerrick wasn’t first to react as Brown Rye proceeded to shoot an arrow into the wolf’s back. Gerrick then proceeded to slam the morphed human aside the head with the brunt of his sword, knocking the wolf unconscious. As another wolf scampered out of the church, Farmer Rye shot another arrow into its hide, felling the beast. After another moment, Mad Milligan and Dwalin arrived at the scene to see Sister Aquilas toting the corpses of wolves from a smoky church. After some effort to put out the fire and retrieve the mortician, Gerrick and the others headed over to the constable’s to tie up their wolf-turned friend.
Shiira woke up disoriented and aching all over. Initial inventory suggested a wound in her back and a large bump on her head as the lights blurred in and out of focus. Then there were people—lots of people—in a strange house and with no memory of what happened or how she got there. She could feel the heat rising to her face as every eye was on her. The healer drew closer and offered the girl a mug of warm liquid as Shiira painfully sat up.
“Why weren’t you there!?” The Dwarf shouted. “We were all doing our best to stop those wolves, and you were nowhere to be seen!” The healer shot Dwalin a glance full of daggers.
Shiira’s eyes stung. Tears began to flow, but she didn’t say anything to defend herself. She didn’t even know why she was here—she had no idea there was a wolf raid! But not only that, she felt guilty for some unbeknownst reason—as if she deserved that remark—or maybe worse. The girl had a sneaking suspicion, but she didn’t want to admit it—hoping, just hoping her fears weren’t realized. She didn’t have much time to consider them, however. She drifted again into unconsciousness as the drugged mug came into effect.
Shiira blinked a few times. Her eyes still stung, her body still sore, but this time there was no confusion. Only a heavy atmosphere and conscious. She dreamed of wolves. It wasn’t the first night, no—those dreams had haunted her since the first night—only this time, she wasn’t the victim. Shiira was the wolf: a bloody killer tearing apart the flesh of her friends and family. What made it worse was that the dream-Shiira seemed to be enjoying it—the sight and smell of blood—the bloodlust—the insanity…what made it worse, however, was that this dream was no nightmare. No, it was as if her conscious accepted such a notion—as if it was somehow ingrained into her soul.
The healer leaned over into the girl’s field of vision. Shiira tilted her head to see more of the village women and Mad Milligan somberly occupying the room, all avoiding eye contact except for her mother. The emotions expressed in her eyes were a combination of relief and concern…and a smidgen of fear. After Shiira again looked at the healer, the halfling broke the news. “Welcome to the village, Shiira. You’re Launsmill’s first lycanthrope resident.”
Tears again filled Shiira’s eyes. Her face contorted as she covered it with her elbow—as if to hide from the world and other sobs beginning in the room. Nobody said a word, and nobody stopped her from crying. The tears would flow for days.
The cell had at least been made a little nicer—but it didn’t take away from the fact that it was still a cell. Shiira didn’t want to be here—she hardly felt like she should be in civilization at all—but she didn’t speak up. In fact, she hadn’t spoken since waking up.
It was for the best, of course. She was dangerous—there was no saying what she would do. People would come to visit—her mother most often—but it only drove the girl deeper into despair. Rather than feeling compassion or sympathy from the visitors, she only sensed fear and pity. How could they let her live? Why her, when she had helped kill so many others of the village? What set her apart from them, especially when they had a much greater use and contribution to the community? Just because she hadn’t turned for a few days didn’t mean she was in the clear, either. What if she were to turn again to much more detrimental aftermath? Is it life to live in fear of yourself—in fear of being rejected and hated—confined to a cage like the beast you are?
Dangerous thoughts continued to swirl in Shiira’s mind, even after she was released from the constable’s care. She was able to sometimes distract herself with chores or carving figurines, but at night she still fell asleep crying, only to dream of more wolves and more blood. Even the bartender’s dogs began to terrify the lass, and she would stay inside at any given chance.
Of course, she still felt a certain duty to offer assistance when it was decided to track down the alpha wolf. She didn’t want to sink into misery, and this felt like it would be a good chance to stand up to her fears and prove her self worth. It took half a day’s search to find the werewolf’s abode, where the party set up an ambush. Shiira hid in a tree with Milligan and Rye, feeling quite confident… at least, until the werewolf arrived. The moment she spotted him—the way he sniffed the air with the halfling child as if he could smell them—made the girl lock up in fear. When the trap was sprung and the others began to fight the beast, Shiira still couldn’t bring herself to move. After seeing his form, his gait, his might—even after Dwalin drove his pick through its skull—Shiira still couldn’t quite pull herself from that tree. Even Milligan proved to be of some use, restraining the loose boy.
Shiira still said nothing after being handed 20 gold—more gold than she ever had to her name at any one moment; however, unlike the previous week or so, the girl’s spirit was not broken. Instead of becoming a shell and wallow in despair, the encounter provided a necessary surge of motivation for the girl to start climbing the pit she created.