After tonight, what would there be left for them all? Chill wind blew up the cliff face carrying with it the sent of salt spray from the waves pounding far below. Beneath the light of a full moon, the dark expanse of the ocean seemed foreboding enough to swell up and swallow them all whole from where the five men stood huddled in their cloaks.
Just as well, Garren thought morosely to himself as he surveyed the faces of the men he stood with, the weather fit his mood. The empty, haggard faces of the other men offered no answers as he pulled his cloak more tightly about his shoulders to ward off the chill and he thought about the first time he had met ‘Him.'
It had been a moonlit night not unlike this one and he had been a mere boy of 8. Where had all the years gone? He wondered as he thought about that long ago night in the woods near his family's farm looking for a stray goat that had gotten loose from a break in the fence. If his father had known he had gone into the woods after the animal, he would have been furious, for the woods harbored wolves. But he would be equally as angry with him for loosing the goat. Thoughts of the beating he would receive from the loss of the goat urged him into the woods, his fear of his father's wrath over coming those of boy eating wolves.
Clutching his herder's staff to his chest, he stepped into the tree line and probed the moonlit darkness for the goat as his ears strained for any sounds the animal might make. All that greeted him, however, was a soft wind through the treetops that sounded to his young ears like malevolent spirits whispering to him. Suppressing a shudder, Garren tried not to let his imagination fill the shadows with things that were not there that could tear him open and eat him whole. Wolves were one thing, but in the mind of an eight year old, the woods at night held things even more terrible.
Garron took a steadying breath, held it and strained for any sound of the goat. Where was it? It was as if the thing had just disappeared! Goats had gotten out before, but they tended not to stray too far. He should have heard something. But aside from the eerie wind in the treetops, all he could hear was a few crickets.
Letting out his breath in a loud whoosh, Garren turned back toward the farm and began trying to figure out how he was going to tell his father. He wasn't a cruel man, the beating would be for "his own good" his father would say. But unlike other times this time the missing goat was Garren's fault. The first thing he was to have done that day was to fix the fence and he had forgotten. Now, minus one goat and plus one beating, he slumped his shoulders and steeled himself to take his punishment.
A sudden rustling in the underbrush startled him and filled him with hope all at once, maybe he could avoid that beating after all? Crossing back into the woods, he strode toward where the sound had come from and then froze mid step as a thought occurred to him that the goat would have made some kind of sound besides rustling the underbrush, but a wolf would make just such a sound if it were stalking prey, namely him.
A cold chill raced up his spine at the thought and he held his staff out before him as he continued tentatively forward, ready to swing with all his 8 year old might should anything leap out at him.