Bonnie Terato had been a young girl when the Enchantress came knocking on her door. If asked, she wouldn’t be able to place her exact age. Older than ten, perhaps, though younger than thirteen.
Old enough to have opinions about old women trying to get into her house.
Her parents were out at the time. Busy with other matters. Her father fished. Her mother worked at a library. Donnel Terato and Constance Mercadi. She remembered their names.
Her father had a silly sense of humor. He was Donny, her mother was Connie, she was Bonnie, and her little brother was Lonnie. She still remembered the look in his eyes, the shock and horror, the rifle trembling in his hands.
She thought it was reasonable to refuse entry to some woman she didn’t know. The fact that it was snowing out was all the more reason to keep her out. It was cold, and her mother had told her stories. Never let in an unknown guest, lest they be a monster in human skin.
Guest rights were frequently taken advantage of by clever monsters, and had fallen far out of favor. Why should anyone be beholden to ancient laws that no one followed anymore?
To an ancient though, those laws were still sacrosanct. Or, at the very least, they were solid to pedantic pieces of shit who wanted an excuse to torment others.
Bonnie needed to learn “manners”. That was the excuse. She acted “beastly” to the poor, vile hag that claimed to know her father, that said she was allowed in, that wouldn’t listen when Bonnie explained her parents were out and she could find them out there. The hag, the crone, the Enchantress claimed so very readily that she should be allowed there, that she should have free run of the house, that she had a right to be there, many things about rights and permissions and so much nonsense that Bonnie shut the door in her face because she was tired and she didn’t want to deal with an old woman she knew nothing about.
The fur grew on her arms first, so she could see the transformation as it happened. Blackhair, sprouting up as she felt her limbs begin to tear from the inside. Muscle sinew began to snap and regrow and the feeling of those awful teeth filling her jaws would always stay with her.
She wasn’t a wolf. She wasn’t a bear either. She was massive and darkly furred. Black horns curled from her head above a vaguely leonine head. Golden eyes stared from her reshaped skull, eyes that gleamed with an unholy fire that burned brighter and bloody as she wept.
Her wail was not a howl. And yet, she could not stop herself. When the bullet entered her side, it all went red.
She tasted blood. Her own now, not her brother’s. She could still remember what that tasted like though. There wasn’t a separate monster inside of her. Not really. The beast was her and she was the beast.
She remembered with clarity the feeling of her teeth sinking into flesh. The screams and the terror. The cries, the wailing, her own and her family’s. She should have been shot. She should have been killed. Hunted down as a monster made from magic, her head hung on some hutner’s wall.
Somehow, she wasn’t. She remembered snow white hair and a kind hand from a woman who seemed larger than life. A softer white than the bastards trying to bleed her into beasthood.
She really didn’t want to replace her jacket again. Aisling had made it for her, a special commission for her first customer. It felt cruel to have it ruined like this.
“Isn’t this bad?”
“If she dies like a human, we won’t have killed a beast. We’ll have killed a hunter, and that means those fuckers at the Union will have all the reason they need to hunt us like dogs.”
“It doesn’t matter. If she won’t turn, we’ll chop up the corpse and scatter it to the ghouls.”
“We wanted a new head though.”
“Then we’ll take this one.”
Bonnie blinked through the blood dripping down her face. More was leaking out her mouth with each ragged breath. She could feel holes in her lungs, more holes in her chest. It ached.
A tight grip on her hair tugged her head up to look into the silver eyes of the poachers’ leader. They reminded her of the moon.
“You’re a wretched thing, you know that? Couldn’t even die like a proper beast.”
He pulled the blade at his side, a broad, square thing made for chopping.
“You won’t even look good on the wall…Well, we can at least take your skull, once we remove everything else. I might even keep these shiny eyes of yours in a nice jar.”
His tight grip tore some of the hair from her scalp as she lunged for his throat. Her jaw clamped down on a gorget and she could see the amusement in the poacher’s eyes.
“There we go. There’s the monster.”
And then he pressed his gun against her head and pulled the trigger, blowing a hole straight through. A second later, the crunch of steel echoed out as a clawed hand clamped down on the ivory revolver through the newly formed bullet wound.
The ivory captain had one moment to see the massive, open maw in front of him, wide and filled with teeth, before the upper half of his torso vanished into it in a crunch of enormous jaws.
His arms fell to the ground as the ivories jerked back, firing at the monster in their midst. The Ill-Mannered Beast stood taller than all of them, featuring a chimeric mix of predatory beasts. No hooves, only claws and fangs, with arms to crush and legs to stomp. It tore its way out of Bonnie’s open head, snarling and furious. Silvered bullets sunk into its fur, vanishing in the dark.
Once it stood on its own two feet, only its tail connected the monstrosity to its human shell, and in one swift motion, Bonnie’s body was pulled into the depths of the beast’s back, cracking and twisting until it was swallowed into the protective hide of the monster.
Then the beast began her hunt.
Ivory blood stained the dirt. Bullets fired without contact, missing by miles as the creature pushed through the shadows and pulled them in, teeth sinking into throats and pulling the poachers into pits of darkness.
Seconds later, gore would erupt from those shadows, covering the dwindling party until those that remained gathered close. To become ivory was to remove fear, yet even the altered could feel their grips tremble with nervous energy at the knowledge they were in a forest with a predator, and it was aiming to kill them all.
Then one of the three vanished into the branches overhead and they couldn’t help but scream. Bullets fired into the treetops, up into the sky, and a pair of legs landed beside them.
“Fh, f-fucking filth! I’ll flay the hide from your–!”
A bullet went through the speaker’s head, ripping through ivory brains and splattered milky blood across the dirt.
The final ivory whirled, eyes wide with shock that the beast could even use guns, before he registered the woman in a golden coat standing with a rifle in her hands.
“What…? Why the hell would you–?!”
A thump caught his attention. He would have turned, but there was a massive clawed hand crushing the rifle in his grip.
He looked up and saw only an open maw above his head. Then it crunched down, and he saw nothing more.