A terrible howl erupted from Ledram’s right, stinging the sellsword’s ears and rattling his teeth. He wheeled on the spot, crouching low and bracing himself for what was to come.
A flash of mangy fur and pale eyes shot towards Ledram, bounding on gangly limbs and exuding a monstrous stench. The sellsword jumped to the side as the beast bore down on him, dagger-like claws catching the hem of his chainmail and ripping it to shreds. He scrambled as he landed, pushing himself to his feet and turning to face the beast.
The werewolf, too, had recovered from its vicious lunge, and already lumbered towards Ledram. Even hunched as it was it loomed over the sellsword, a collection of ropy muscles and ebon fur. A demoniac snarl crossed its monstrous visage, exposing half-rotted teeth as long as fingers and as yellow as a harvest moon.
In an instant the beast was upon Ledram, leading with a rapid swipe that forced the sellsword to step back. Ledram knew no armour would save him from such mighty blows, and more than once he had to bury an overconfident comrade who felt secure within their sturdy suit of metal. He would have to dance a deadly dance with the beast, any mistake costing him his life.
The werewolf had recovered from its missed swing, dropping to all fours and snapping at Ledram. The mercenary jabbed at the advancing monstrosity, his blade aimed for the sickly white eyes. But the beast turned at the last moment, and Ledram’s blade caught the werewolf below the ear.
Sharpened steel grazed the horror’s misshapen skull, opening a great gash and spilling putrefied blood. The tar-like ichor clung to Ledram’s sword, and the stink of spoiled meat and offal stung his nose. He attempted to twist his blade as it slid towards the beast-man’s neck, hoping to slice it’s vile neck and end the fight quickly.
But the beast pulled away before Ledram could end its miserable life, pushing itself to the side and dodging the sellsword’s blade. Undaunted, Ledram followed the horror as it sidled away, making a quick hack downwards as he did.
His sword had found purchases, splitting the thing’s tattered ear in two before driving the edge into its neck. Diseased blood burst from wound, and the werewolf howled in agony. It twisted violently, smashing Ledram with an explosive backhand as he recovered from his strike.
Ledram felt himself flung backwards by the monstrous power behind the blow, his flight cut short by a sturdy pine by the roadside. His head smashed into the trunk, driving his chin into his chest with stupendous force. The impact shattered his rotten teeth, chunks of enamel slicing his gums.
He sunk to the forest floor, the wind stolen from him by blow. He gasped as he tried to recover, but was forced to spit as shards of teeth threatened to fill his lungs. He managed several ragged breaths, but struggled to return to his feet.
The werewolf had no such difficulty. Enraged, it charged the downed sellsword, eyes wide with fear and fury. Gore had soaked down its flank, mixing with mud and staining the patchy fur that ran down its sides. Foam collected at the corners of its mouth, and its jaws gaped grotesquely. It was ready to take the mercenary’s head off in one wicked bite.
Ledram searched for his sword as the monstrosity bore down upon him, but the blade had vanished, lost somewhere in the mass of ferns. The mercenary panicked, grabbing a branch and holding it before him. Powerless, his eyes screwed shut, and he curled himself into as tight a ball as he could.
A tremendous thud shook Ledram, and he flinched as pressure was put against his makeshift spear. He felt doom upon him, and he awaited his death.
But the doom he had anticipated never came. Cautiously, he cracked an eye open, peering from behind his shelter of crossed arms and raised knees. The beast lay sprawled before him, a tangle of twisted limbs. Its broad shoulder lay pressed against Ledram’s branch, and a trail of gore-slicked mud ran behind it.
“Bastard bled out,” Ledram exclaimed, dropping the branch and uncoiling himself from the ball he had formed. He leaned back against the tree, a sigh escaping his lips. Though he felt like a horse had fallen on him, he was fairly certain no bones were broken. “A few teeth short,” he groaned, his jaw aching, “and one buggered coat of chainmail.” He exhaled slowly, mentally tallying the expenses that awaited him once he returned to town. “Still in the green at least…”
He rested for a moment, basking in the victory he had achieved. It would be a long trek home, and he would need to find his sword. Not to mention the work on cutting the beast’s foul head from its mangled body, proof of his successful hunt. But Ledram had a moment to savour a job well done. He grabbed at his belt, finding a wineskin hung from a metal loop. He untied the binding and popped the cork, inhaling the vibrant aroma.
“Nothing like a hard days work,” he hummed, before downing the contents of his wineskin.