Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Wolf's Bane

by James Matthew Byers

`T was a night when full moon reigned.
Like heaven's fire, the starlit drained
uncertainty from traveler's path,
despondent in its needful wrath.

The witching hour just begun
with seven hours till the sun
would thus encroach the darkened snare
of those who traipsed the midnight air

confounded in a burden's levy.
Breathing soon became quite heavy,
forming puffs of cloudy mist
from she who dared the evening's gist.

About the maiden, sullen gloom
impended on pursuing doom,
succinct before where she now stood.
Beneath her, soil, before her wood-

in fact the kind of wood that arched
while wind blown leaves swayed as they marched
in sync with owl's misread warning.
Simple, she, who thought of morning,

had no concept of the place
while she felt chills sweep o'er her face.
Instead of halting in her tracks,
or even turning to look back,

her hesitation brought forth motion.
Heedless of her instinct's notion,
she pushed forward on a trail
which only lit by moonlight's veil

led feet to wander in the keep
of secrets guarded in the deep,
furbished in blackened bark and moss.
It seemed aside, caution did toss

its merry shell of safety's net.
Her breathing, harder, faster, yet
she ushered onward, pathway dim,
the broken moonlight through each limb,

which danced and stretched in spaces sparse,
as if the light were but a farce.
Some twenty feet into the wood,
the woman pulled closer her hood,

one black as night, and evening shawl.
`T was then she heard behind her crawl
the echo of a snapping branch
beneath the leaves' crunch, taught and stanch.

Muffled breathing in the distance
set aback forced in resistance
from the cold night air abroad
bade heart pound faster ere she trod.

For every step she did advance,
a pause would suit, then circumstance
would bring around familiar sound
of footfall meeting with the ground.

The deeper in the wood she strode,
the heavier became the load-
anticipation's cruelest joke,
as fevered fear and passion broke.

Now so far in, the path lost trait,
and bearing on her burdened weight,
a faster movement she ensued,
and faster still, she was pursued.

Fifteen minutes would bring one-
the witching hour then undone.
This burst into her brain to balm
her wounded wonder seeking calm.

Behind an oak she passed her pain,
there spotting purplish wolfs bane
which brought to mind ironic bliss.
She plucked the flower while amiss,

as from her judgment, listening,
not one, but three were following
her on her venture, Hallows Eve,
intent to maim or to bereave.

Yes, voices three did she hear speak,
and buckling, her knees drew weak.
A break in tinsel, tangled stretch
of limbs brought moonlight's glow to fetch

a better view of who assailed-
three townsmen she had once seen jailed
for drunken stupor and display
of rape and profit, held at bay

thanks to their father, mayor of town.
They left their cell, intent to drown
such hunger in their thirsty loins-
evil conceived within the groins.

Knowing how these men could be,
the woman held back hopefully.
How unfair had their verdict been-
as three walked free from heinous sin.

Now breathing harder, pulling close
her shawl, its darkness did engross,
and from each side, the three made way.
In silence there, she heard them say:

"This one's mine! I'll have her first!"
"No, me!" the next said in a burst
of panged expression, then the third,
so softly it was barely heard

said, "She is mine. I'll slit her throat.
Then you can take her while I gloat!"
With every word, the three incensed her;
broke her spirit in condensed stir.

With the wolfs bane in her hand,
she felt its poison stream in strand
for she was crushing in her fist
its passion petals as did twist

her fingers round its very shape.
The hair then tingled round her nape,
for villains, three, moved in the dark,
approaching on their prey for mark.

Then suddenly in open space
she jumped with fervor cross her face.
The men, they jibed and quipped remarks,
intent to feast like rabid sharks.

Now trembling, she bowed her head.
The black cloak covered pulsing thread
of transformation's combination.
Metamorphosis sensation

surged and wrecked a frail young lady
in the open moonlight's shady,
pale delight; shape shifter's call,
as from her body, clothes did fall

unto the earth, and three who knew
their end, not hers, would paint the hue
of blood red curdle in the frost
of woodland passing, their lives lost.

Before her fur and fangs evolved,
she bade them know the mystery solved,
for pulling back her hood, they gasped.
She had been one of those they grasped

in their foul clutches, caught off guard
when knocked unto the ground so hard
the wind had flown right out of lungs,
and vengeance was to what she clung.

With not a word, the werewolf spawned
her final frame as closure donned
each male’s persona, death the common.
Never under-rate a woman

thought they all as teeth and claw
came forth, extensions of her jaw
and hands to rip them all to shreds,
just weak reminders there who bled.

No matter what the size; how frail
she seemed, the moral of this tale
is worry what your actions seek,
for though the men thought victim, meek,

would come unto their lustful fray,
`t was at their own end they did bay.
One final look to fear and tremble,
then no more men they resembled.

While the witching hour died,
the werewolf let loose as she cried.
A howl ushered through red stain
said vengeance came as crushed wolfs bane.

© 2007 James Matthew Byers

James Matthew Byers is a published author(Grecian Rune, 2004) and a father of two. He has been married to his wife, Dorothea, for seven years. Currently, he teaches Special Education at St. Clair County High School in Odenville, AL. He resides with his family and two cats in Rainbow City, AL.

Find more by James Matthew Byers in the Author Index.

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