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The Stained Hood

Another night of merrymaking was in procession in a crowded tavern in a town whose name no one remembers. Laughter, story-telling, and idiotic babbling filled the air as old and new friends shared in good times. At the bar there sat a young woman covered in a red hood, never stopping her intake of alcohol. Across her skin were a number of claw marks and bites; signs of great conflict and an attitude to match. No one dared to come near her, except one foreigner. She sat next to the intimidating figure without an ounce of fear. The woman in red seemed to ignore her presence as the liquor continued to pour down her throat. Finally, the foreigner spoke,

“Seems to me that you are the only one sulking on this fine night. Come, why not smile a bit and share in the partaking of stories. Tell me your name and the most exciting of tales. The sky is alight with the stars and moon that…”

Suddenly, the girl in the hood smacked the foreigner backwards against a nearby wall. She glared menacingly at her victim with her red eyes alight before going back to her drink. Seemingly foolish, the foreigner rose up and sat next to the hostile woman. A chuckling emitted from the hood before the woman within it spoke aloud,

“Stubborn, I like that. You want to hear a tale then huh? Let me tell you one, but I guarantee you that there will be no laughter found within it. I am only known by the name of Red for my past name I do not deserve. It started upon a night like this, I was out riding upon my silver horse with my white hood when out of the shadows a werewolf pounced upon the two of us. I tried to defend us, but I was knocked back by the strength of this creature. Hours crept by as I lay in darkness, only awaken by the rays of the coming morning. When I awoke I found only bits of my beautiful horse left. My anger and sadness knew no bounds as revenge became my only thought. I marched to the temple of the goddess Epona and demanded for the high priestess, my grandmother. The attendants worked fast to retrieve her as she appeared before me in a long gown with a moonstone carved into a horse’s head. She looked at my questioningly before asking,

‘My dear granddaughter, what is the matter? Have you finally come to your senses and asked for forgiveness from the great goddess? It is only then will you find peace in your parent’s death and see the purpose that is meant for you.’

I scoffed at her before responding, ‘No, I came to make you aware of what the goddess that you revere has done to us. As you know, she took my parents away many moons ago but gifted us a silver horse. For a while, I was happy with the gift that I had been giving, but sure enough your goddess had to ruin that too. A werewolf, a creature of the moon, attacked me and killed my beloved horse. What do you have to say to your goddess now?!’

At first, she seemed unfazed by my news, making me even angrier, but then she did something I never thought I would see. She grabbed her necklace and shattered it against the ground. That is when our quest for revenge began.”

Red took a few more sips of alcohol as she paused from her story. The stranger was stunned by the words that came from the woman’s mouth. She asked,

“Revenge on a goddess? How foolish could you be? The gods and goddesses are not to be trifled with. How are you even still alive?”

“Shut up and I will tell you.” Responded the harsh woman. After finishing what seemed like her eighth glass she continued, “First, we wanted revenge against the werewolf, the goddess was afterwards. We knew that we needed at least a third to even attempt to kill the beast. So, we came to this very tavern and hired the services of mercenary who used only axes to kill his victims. The three of us then headed into the forest to hunt for the beast. It took days to even get within the right area to find its den. In that time, the three of us bonded and partook in merrymaking much like those around us tonight. But like most good things, it came to an end. We were attacked in a flash by the beast. Without a second thought, it killed my grandmother by biting down on her throat. I screamed in anger as I went after the beast with no plan. It easily pinned myself underneath it as it tore into my skin. I would have been dead if it were not for the mercenary. He threw three axes into the side of the beast, making it come towards him. I went towards my grandmother’s body and found the shards of the moon necklace she once wore. Then I heard a dying scream as the body of the mercenary lay cold and bloody upon the ground. It was just me and the horrid beast left to battle. I took up one of the axes and grounded the moonstone into the axe head. With my weapon ready, I charged forward once again to kill the wretched beast. It moved to the side, barely escaping my swing as it latched onto my arm with its teeth. My other hand was still free as I chopped again and again into the beast. It died after the first two strokes, but I did not care. Over and over again I struck it until my white hood was stained red. As I looked at what was left of the body, it began to change to a human form. Horror struck my face as I saw the dead body of my father upon the ground.”

Red had to stop for a moment, her past causing her to be visible shaken before grabbing a whole bottle of wine and guzzling it down her throat. The room had stopped their fun and were listening intently to her story. She noticed this as she gave them a murderous glare, to which they all returned to their fun. After a few deep breaths, she continued,

“As I stayed at bended knee at my loss a beam of light from the moon above came down in front of me. A being formed from the radiant glow as a goddess stood before me. She kept her hair in a pony tail and had a riding hood of silver around her shoulders. Across her shoulder, she wore a belt of moonstones that glowed within the dark night. She looked at me with a disappointing gaze while she spoke,

‘What have you done? My dear you were always so headstrong, but this is beyond that characterization. Anger blinded your judgement and reason. Your father was so close to finishing his sentence before you struck him down. Now, you have lost him forever.”

I was stunned by the figure in front of me, not because she was a goddess but because I had recognized her.

‘Mom?’ I asked questioningly.

The goddess sighed as she replied, ‘Yes, my dear daughter. You see you were only half right about when you thought the goddess took your parents. When I committed myself to your father and him to me, we were told by the other gods not to reveal my identity to anyone. For many a year we both kept silent of my true nature until one night in that dam tavern. Your father was with some of the other men in the village who began to mock me. They said horrible things such as I was a whore looking for redemption by the goddess Epona by becoming a priestess. Due to anger and alcohol, your father rose to defend my honor revealing who I was. Of course, this broke the vow we made to the gods and he was immediately struck by the moon. He transformed into a werewolf and killed all around him before running into the forest. Many moons passed, and he hid within the woods; not killing another soul until he felt the pull of the silver steed, the one I gave you. Another test by the gods to see if you were worthy of being in my presence again. This you failed miserably. Had it not seemed strange that he did not kill you at the same time? You were knocked unconscious with no way to defend yourself, easy prey to anyone. Worst of all you dragged two others to their deaths because of your anger. My dear I am sorry, but you must be punished. Henceforth from here on you will guard my temple as the beast that drove you to such foolishness.’

The moon struck me with such power it overwhelmed my mind. All I could hear was howling and feel a hunger for flesh. That night was the end of me as a human for now I am cursed to walk this earth as a werewolf until my sentence is finished. Serving as the guardian of the temple of Epona just a short distance away.”

With her tale finished, she had finally stopped drinking from the alcohol she had been given. Her eyes had softened from her tale from the fury she had started the conversation. The foreigner smiled as she talked to werewolf,

“So, you are the woman I have been searching for. I am going to need your help Red. The gods have decreed only one that has been bathed in moonlight can defeat the foe I face now.”

Red plucked an eye brow up at the foreigner, intrigued by her offer. Before agreeing to anything she asked one question,

“What’s your name?”

A small smile appeared on her mouth as the foreigner responded, “Aurora.”

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