“It’s the winter’s moon, I think,” Charlotte posited as they stalked through the castle halls. “He’s simply not right, during it.”
They kept on the move, sneaking past his chambers and then his office. Not knowing where he was made the task of hiding from him all the more difficult. But Charlotte led the way, fearlessly and cautiously. Ellie remembered her as a child, so full of energy, and questions. She had always been such a treasure to spend time with, and always enjoyed spending it with her maid. It was peculiar, when she began calling her Ellie rather than Ms. Eleanor, but it was welcomed. As she grew, their affections did too until they built a true friendship. It was the real reason Ellie stayed, even when things were strange.
Charlotte motioned for Ellie to run to the front door while she hung back standing guard. With the coast clear, Ellie broke for it and jammed her key into the appropriate hole. When the door opened, a slight breeze whistled in and the two of them froze and winced at the sound. When no one seemed to be coming after them, they exited and ran down the grounds path. It was only then that Charlotte felt a pang in her stomach, wishing she had left a note for her mother. But, it was too late and she was betting she would understand. Their feet slapped hard against the cement and their lips blued as they fought against the cold air, but neither slowed them down. However, it wasn’t long before a coach and carriage blocking their way stopped them.
At first, it was difficult to see who the culprit was though the fog. But between the swirls of haze Charlotte eventually caught the eyes of her prince. He was early. Damn it. He was early. His eyes pierced her own, amused by her rambunctious nature and pleased with his own triumph. He reached out and locked a hand around her dainty wrist.
“How nice of you to come out and meet me. We shouldn’t waste time with goodbyes then, shall we?” He laughed. It was the type of laugh that buried itself inside of Charlotte’s chest and made her heart thump with resentment.
Charlotte pulled away but it did no good. His grip just grew tighter, his smile wider.
“Don’t get me wrong Princess, I like a good hunt, but I’m not stupid enough to release an easy catch.”
The moonlight reflected off of his teeth and his sharp incisors sparkled ominously. Before her eyes, they seemed to grow. She tugged harder now, and Ellie wrapped her arms around her waist to pull. But the two women’s efforts failed miserably, and made the Prince’s laughter heartier. Through the blue haze of nighttime fog, Ellie squinted in disbelief. His eyes glowed red now, she was almost sure of it.
In a heartbeat, the man became more beast, growling in disdain. His skin tore open revealing fur black as darkness and as thick as a wolf. His height increased along with his muscles, and he towered over them casting a shadow of pure evil across their faces. He lunged at Ellie, and she let out a mortal cry that must have shattered her windpipes as it carried across the Kingdom. It was only then that the horse reacted, crying out and wrenching back on his hind legs. The coachman, who had been otherwise invisible, was thrown landing akimbo on the ground.
Charlotte watched it all unfold, and it was as if time had slowed down. The sound of the crickets pierced through the muck in her mind, along with the flap of a crow’s wings above her head. She tried to blink away the disaster but it didn’t work. The prince – the monster – was headed for Ellie and the only thing Charlotte’s body could do was counter. And it did. Adrenaline surged through her as she leapt through the air, making direct contact with the beast. She landed flat on top of him and felt a bolt of electricity push through her skin until it burst open. Her teeth sharpened and her maw widened to release a vengeful roar before she tore into the prince’s furry throat. Charlotte could see only in red, and wasn’t sure if it was her anger, her eyes, or the blood she was guzzling. All the same, she kept fighting, kept growling, kept feasting.
It wasn’t until the prince’s monstrous head had been disconnected from his body that Charlotte stopped to take in her surroundings. She rose slowly, half-beast half-woman, and all rage. Ellie was on the ground, unconscious, as was the coachman. The crow she had heard was perched on a low hanging branch within her reach. The fog had begun to dissolve and the moonlight was brighter than ever. Charlotte could only hear the pace of her heart banging against her chest now, and could only feel power inside of her. It was like nothing she had ever known before.
A slow and steady clap began behind her. It was the King. His smirk told Charlotte that he had witnessed enough of the event, and was impressed.
“You’re fiercer than I expected. I underestimated you – a woman and a half-breed. But I suppose you really are daddy’s little girl, after all.”
With that, he turned and headed back to the castle, where Charlotte could see her mother gazing down at her from a window. There was absolutely nothing behind her eyes.