Anette is late. Far too late. It is getting dark, and she is still not out of the forest. She has been visiting her aunt, and one of her cows had a hard labour. And now she is late.
She has been dreaming about this for two weeks now. And now she is trapped in the nightmare again, only awake this time. The forest has gone quiet. It's like all the colour has drained out of the world. And she knows that the beast is here. She has dreamt this.
In the dark woods something moves. A great black shape, glistening in blood and broken steel. It moves heavily, like a very large predator. It takes deep breaths, smelling the chill night air. Steam rises from the great, dark shape. Anette knows it has caught her scent. She starts running, as she knew she would.
Behind her the beast moves. It will catch up with her, and she can't stop running. She almost loses her footing crossing a small bridge, but manages to keep running. The beast is gaining. She can hear it now, the sound of its feet hitting the ground, its breath.
She comes to the small stream where she knows she will stumble. It will overtake her, and then she will wake up. Only this is not a dream. She stumbles. She almost manages to get up, but then one of her bare feet hit a sharp rock. The pain pierces through her, and she screams.
The beast is here now. She rolls over on her back, scurrying backwards in the cold water. From her foot a red mist spread outward from the wound. The beast is savouring the moment. It looms over her. It is so large it blots out the sky. Saliva is dripping from a mouth full of sharp yellow teeth. This is where she woke up when she was dreaming. She can't wake up from this.
The man comes from nowhere. He leaps into the creek, placing himself between her and the beast. He has a solid walking stick, and he holds it like a club. In his other hand he is holding a book. He holds the book infront of him like a shield. "I carry the Letter!" he shouts, then, "Get back, demon, she is not for you!" The beast roars. It's so loud it shakes the leaves on the trees like a wind. The man doesn't move. "I carry the Letter!" His voice is firm, and the beast roars again in frustration.
It tries to get around him, but he won't let it. "She is not for you, demon!" The beast roars again, frustrated, angry, impotent. "I call you by your True Name, N'Gartl. Be gone!"
The beast growls menacingly while it retreats into the forest, it's eyes never leaving the man.
He turns to Anette and kneels. "Wake up now," he says gently, and something stirs in the edge of her awareness. Her foot hurts, and she blinks away some tears. When she open her eyes again she is alone. No man, and no beast. It feels like she's just awoken from a terrible nightmare, and while the fear still lingers she can feel it diminishing by every breath.
Anette makes it home that night, and later, when she dreams, the beast does not return.
Storyteller's note: I got this idea after playing Sheperd last chapter. It started as Little Red Ridinghood, but it took a slightly different turn.