I looked at Rory and knew the time had come. “Relax, buck,” I said, going to a dark corner. “We’ve invited you to join us for a very special ritual.”

Newlyn relaxed altogether. “Something to fight off the demons?” he asked, relieved I’d finally do something to assuage his fear.

“Exactly,” I confirmed, grabbing my wolf skin and putting it on, the head coming down on my hair partly covering my face. With a sweeping gesture, I made the fire go cold altogether and our camp plunged into darkness. More wolf howls rose in the night and I smelled the buck’s fear, its sour scent penetrating my nostrils at the same instant I began changing into my new shape.

First, I felt my face push out, my nose growing rapidly as if it wanted to break free. The rest of my head was also mutating, every feature becoming longer until a nozzle replaced my human features. My teeth sharpened as they grew longer, their pointed tips grating on my tongue. All at once, I felt unable to stand, my legs too weak to hold the now excessive weight. I stretched out my arms to cushion the fall, but instead of hands, silvery hairy paws touched the ground. Gone were my legs, too, replaced by straight shiny furry animal feet, which sustained a long wolf’s body, complete of tail and pointed ears.

Newlyn screamed and backed away from the embers, trying to reach safety, stopping only when his back hit a tree. I had trouble seeing him properly, my vision now a bluish blur. Things suddenly lost their sharp details, even if I still perceived the separation between objects, helped mostly by their intense smell. And sound came in a different way, the rustle of a leaf reverberating like a drum in my head. Overall, I simply needed to adjust to these new sensual perceptions that made my world strikingly different from what I’d grown used to in my human form. But the change only made it easier to target the shape that stood out among everything else for it gave off a bright reddish hue, which proved his demon-like essence. I lurched forward, wanting to demand the truth from his lips, but the only sound that came out was an angry snarl. Cornering him to the tree, I raised my head and howled deeply, following a primordial instinct I had no idea I even possessed, then poised to jump at the buck’s throat.
“Help me,” Newlyn screamed, raising terrorized eyes to the hunter. As his hands covered his throat, I heard his heart beating wildly and his blood pump faster, which only increased my excitement. Reeling back on my hind legs, I shortened my body for the jump, determined not to fail my aim and rip the throbbing pulse driving me crazy with desire to—

“Stop, lover.” The deep voice sounded very familiar in my head so I obeyed, turning to look at the powerful frame coming my way. Without fear or hesitation, the hunter rubbed my head and I pushed up to feel more of his warmth.

“Please, Hunter, take that…beast away,” Newlyn implored, looking wide-eyed at me.

“Only if you tell the truth, puppy,” Rory contended softly.

“The truth about what?”
“About the killings.”

Newlyn’s head shook violently. “I don’t know anything about them, Hunter. I swear.”

I growled my disagreement at the obvious lie and lurched forward. Again, the stubborn human yelped in fear while Rory had simply to whisper in my direction to stop my jump.

“I know nothing of them, Hunter,” Newlyn repeated. “Please, believe me!”

“Oh, I could, puppy,” the hunter said softly, his voice unnaturally even, “but the wolf here is having a hard time believing you.”
“He just wants to kill me,” Newlyn spat, his body not displaying the same defiance he tried to put in his words.

“If you tell the truth, puppy, I promise you, he won’t hurt you.