Post 22: Marsh Devil

Surprise, surprise! This piece is the result of yet another Tale Foundry writing group prompt. But this one’s slightly different than the last few have been. In order to submit your piece to the writing group, the word count for your piece must fall between 250 and 350. Depending on how excited you are about the story you’re writing, keeping between those two numbers is hard to do. I usually end up about 20 to 30 words over on average. But this piece rolled in at 651 total words.

So I got out my imaginary red pen and started pruning. When I thought I was done, I took a look at the word count again. I wasn’t even close to being under the maximum word limit. So I snipped some more, looked for places where I could make one word do the job of three, and tried to ignore the sinking feeling that I just wasn’t going to be able to fit this one inside the word count.

After much imaginary red ink and a few tears, I brought it in at 349. But so much of the flavor was gone. It was like my story had gone for a simple haircut and came out bald. So while the Tale Foundry family got the heavily edited, unseasoned version, you get to read the full story. All 651 delicious words of it.

This is the third short story where the main character from my WIP (work in progress) takes center stage. I’m not sure if this scene will ever make it into a larger piece. It certainly doesn’t belong in the WIP. But it did help me get to know my main character a little better, and that’s worth something.

Prompt: Better the Devil You Know

***

Marsh Devil

The necklace hung heavy around my neck. I hated it. It was full of magic-stealing silver. But it was necessary if I wished to get close to the Nain. Silver took away more than just my magic, it took away what I was, including my Black Shuck scent. To the Nain, I would smell like any other human.

I took a sip from my glass and tried to remind myself to sit in a lady-like fashion. I hated dresses. And heels for that matter. I longed for the night to be over so I could toss the stupid necklace in a river somewhere and go for a run on four legs. But there was a Nain to hunt. A run would have to wait.

He had taken three humans in our territory already. The papers were calling him the “Marsh Devil”. It had been enough to interest Stone, alpha of the common werewolf pack; my pack. It was only a matter of time before the Nain snatched a human a pack member cared about. An enraged werewolf, even a common one, could do more damage in a night than one Nain could do in a week. Since I was the only one who had a way to hide my scent, the job of drawing him out had fallen to me.

Stone, pretending to be one of the hotel bar’s staff, brought me a fresh drink and a snack.

“You know I can’t be drinking too much alcohol right now,” I whispered to him as he bent to set the new glass on my table.

“A drink for the pretty lady,” he said, louder than he needed to. “On the house.”

The Nain was here.

“No one’s ever said I’m pretty before,” I said, pitching my voice slightly higher. A human with a lack of self-confidence was like a beacon to Nains. They were easier prey. Tell a human they are beautiful or handsome and they would fall all over themselves to hear it again. I smiled shyly down at my lap as Stone left. I knew some werewolves who were like that, too.

The Nain was watching me from the bar. Even though he was using glamour, he couldn’t hide his predatory nature. I didn’t need to be a preternatural creature to see it. His spine was stiff, like a hunting dog who’d just found a grouse. I swirled my drink and pretended I hadn’t noticed him staring.

“Excuse me,” he said, coming to stand by my low table. “You don’t happen to be waiting for anyone, do you?”

I giggled and blushed. “I wish. I’m alone, as per usual.”

Loneliness. Another bit of enticement for the Nain.

“Would you like to take a walk with me by the river? It’s a beautiful night.” He smiled and added bait of his own. “Almost as beautiful as you.”

“One little walk won’t hurt,” I reasoned. “Alright. Lead on.”

We followed the boardwalk along the river until we were far away from the lights of the hotel. The ground on the shore-side of the walkway turned to marsh. His favored killing ground.

“You humans,” he sighed. “Hunting you used to be fun. Now you’re all painfully ignorant. But killing you? That is something I can still enjoy.”

He stepped in front of me to block my path forward but forgot all about me when he saw the three giant, mud-covered wolves who’d been following us since we had reached the marsh.

“You think you’re the only predator out here?” I asked, closing my eyes and reaching for the necklace clasp at the back of my neck. Once undone, I tossed the horrid thing to the ground and took a deep breath as I became fully Black Shuck again. I opened my eyes and bathed him in the dull red glow of my gaze. “There are things here that are far worse than you.”

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