Silver were the flashes of light that streaked through the sky the night the beast-slayer came knocking at the inn. The doors creaked as he stepped into the tavern, an eerie sort of creak, as if the walls themselves, fashioned from ancient oak woods — long dead — flickered with life but for a moment. A single protest. A groan in the wind.
Rain drizzled still, slivering down the panes of glass that let darkness into the inn. There was a hush cast over the room. Hearth flames flickered as the beast-slayer stepped his way towards the keeper of the tavern. Thunder rumbled with his every footfall, heavy under his massive frame.
“I am here”, spoke the beast-slayer, “because you have a monster that needs to be taken care of.”
Softly spoken were his words, but such was the quiet he drew out that all in the tavern heard his claim. There were rumbles of regard. The tavern-keeper sent for a man to fetch him the quest scroll, posted on one of the walls. On the parchment was drawn, hasty and dark, the visage of a wolf. Fearsome were its eyes, more fearsome still its claws and biting maw. Death was imminent in its stance, pain in its bared fangs.
“Are you sure of this, hero?” warned the tavern-keeper, “That beast has killed many a man.”
The beast-slayer cast his eyes over the crowd of the inn. They were not few, but thinning. Depression drifted in the air like the smoke of a burnt out candle. There were few young men, and fewer brave men. There were no more heroes here.
“And I have killed many a beast,” said he to them.
Chattering roused as the patrons of the establishment lifted up their drinks, sprung up their spirits with hope. “Could he be the one?” they wondered, “Can this beast-slayer be our salvation?”
But not all were of such thinking, for not all are so quick to cast their lot with faith. A burly man came forth from the back, face scarred by claw-marks. “What makes you think you could do it? What is your secret beast-slayer? I’ve heard of your sort. You’re no less a beast than that which you slay.”
“I need not prove myself to a man like you.”
The burly man glared and slammed his fist down on the table before the beast-slayer. “What makes you think you’re better than our bravest, most intelligent, most powerful warriors? You call yourself Hunter, but hunter of what? Gold? Your sort have no honor, only lust for coin. We do not want your aid.”
The Hunter bore his spittle-laced screaming with patience. “It is not the glimmer of gold I seek. I hope only to strike my weapon in the heart of your beast.”
Another man, older and white-haired, spoke up. “I do not doubt your intentions, brave one. But what weapon will you use against such ferocity as this?” He motioned towards the quest-scroll. “There is no blade that cuts so sharply, no arrow that pierces so truly, no spell so striking that the beast can be stopped. Our best have died in this endeavor. There are many before you who believed they had victory in their grasp. Now death holds them… What is your assurance that death will not likewise be dealt unto you?”
The beast-slayer sighed. All awaited his response.
“I have not strength, nor swiftness, nor wisdom any greater than your finest warriors, all of whom died brave deaths.” He cast his eyes about the room as he spoke, standing proudly. “Nor have I sharp blade, nor true arrow, or striking spell to my advantage. But I have a treasure all the more fine, more striking, more true… It is guaranteed by this treasure that your beast shall be undone.”
It became loud then, questions bursting forth from every person nearby. Only the tavern-keeper’s question was unique enough to quiet the room once more. “This treasure you speak of… Do you have a silver bullet, beast-slayer?”
He nodded. “Of a sort.”
The tavern-keeper pulled on his ginger beard, a sort of wonder coming upon him. “Those are hard-won and very rare.”
“So too was this one,” said the beast-slayer.
“May we see it?” asked one of the patrons.
“You cannot see it,” said the beast-slayer.
The tavern-keeper leaned over his bar. “Tell me Hunter, how did you earn your silver bullet?”
“I had perceived it by a market stall. So soft was it, so gentle that I had almost not perceived it at all. But it is my fate, my blessing that I did. So I went forth to investigate and found myself enchanted by its delicate simplicity. I earned it chiefly through long patience and gentle persistence. But I did not know how to use it rightly when it was mine. I consulted many a man and woman for their wisdom on the matter, and all taught me many things. But none taught me how to wield my bullet. So I went into the forest for a long while and meditated upon it. Now, I believe I understand what it means to wield the silver bullet.”
“Well…” said the tavern-keeper, “Godspeed to you Hunter. The beast-hour comes quickly now. The wind is howling. We hope for your return.”
All made way for the beast-slayer.
The winds whipped at his face, lashing with vociferous vengeance. They howled indeed. The beast-slayer walked on, on into the forest. To face the beast.
For many hours did he walk alone in the forest, wandering to and fro. He knew that the wolf would come to him. Though he heard, just barely, the pattering of rain over the whaling of the wind, the green leaves far above his head were so many and so mighty that no rain touched upon the forest-ground. Coldness crept in, anticipation. Did he have the strength to face the wolf?
So it went for a while longer.
At last a noise broke through the quiet. A twig snapped. Then another. The beast-slayer turned around in time to glance at a dark form moving in the night. The wolf growled at him, but he could not see the wolf, so dark was its coat.
The beast-slayer kept on his guard, circled the clearing he found himself in. It was to no avail, for he had no weapons to draw. He needed only a chance to use his silver bullet.
The beast-slayer heard a howl and turned around just in time to catch a claw to the chest. The wolf pounced on him. He was knocked off his feet, driven down to the ground by the weight of the beast. It snapped its jaws at him, but he held it at enough distance that it could not bite him. But it was a close thing.
Though his chest bled and he exerted all his energies in holding back the wolf, he had enough strength to speak forth a name like silver.
“Bellalyn,” whispered he. “You are Bellalyn, my love. Be Bellalyn once more. Be free from this form.”
The wolf-spell shattered and the beast was undone. The wolf was remade into Bellalyn in his arms. If a name is a promise, then hers was a promise fulfilled — there was no fairer beauty in all the world.
They passed the storm in that way, embracing under a forest Rome. When they had heart enough to return to the inn, the winds were quiet. The people were asleep, dreaming for an end to their monstrous torment. Come morning their dreams had come true, for the beast-slayer had used his silver bullet and undid the Wolf.