Moonbroch; a halo around the moon which presages an approaching storm.
Lottie threw the duvet back and got out of bed, giving in to her insomnia. Without fumbling around trying to light a candle, she crossed the bedroom in darkness. She went to the window box and moved the heavy curtains away from the window itself. A cold draft raised the hairs on her skin that wasn’t covered by the long, sweeping white nightdress.
She sat down, comfortable against the plump cushions and quilted seat underneath her. Pulling all of her long, golden hair over to her right shoulder, Lottie played with the gentle curls. First, she straightened them, then twisted the ends around her fingers before throwing the whole lot back over her shoulder.
Lottie looked out of the window into the night which stretched like a never ending sea. Below, the gas lamps that normally lit the short driveway and gate were out. The moorland beyond, which she couldn’t see, was quiet. It was rare anyone travelled after sunset but on nights of the full moon as it was tonight, nobody left their homes.
The clouds in the sky parted, the moon shone down, casting a dim light which was just enough for Lottie to see by. She watched the moon, noticing the halo of light that surrounded it and how the clouds were lit by the glow. It was a magnificent sight.
An echoing wolf howl broke the stillness. A shiver, that had nothing to do with the cold, ran through Lottie. She reached out to clutch the side of a cushion then tried to move away from the window. Another howl, closer this time stopped her movement and she looked out again.
There was something moving in the darkness of the moor.
Lottie told herself they were just shadows cast by the moon and that the howling only seemed nearby because it had echoed. She put the cushion into her lap and played with the tassels to help calm herself down.
I should go back to bed. Light the candle and read my book until I feel sleepy, Lottie thought.
A movement made Lottie turn her head. Down, next to the gate, a huge grey-black shaggy furred werewolf was standing there in the moonlight, looking up at her with massive yellow eyes. The breathe caught in Lottie’s throat, she became still, frozen by fear that was racing through her blood.
The werewolf threw his head back and let out a mighty, long howl.
From the darkness, another werewolf, slightly smaller and with a light grey fur coat padded towards the gate and joined the first werewolf. They howled together and another werewolf, shorter this time, with a red-grey mixed coat appeared. Then it seemed, more and more werewolves kept coming forward, till at least a pack of twelve stood by the gate.
The first werewolf moved, rising on it’s long, twisted hind legs to stand taller then a man and let out a short howl. He launched himself, trying to get through the gate. He’s long front legs and muzzle fell through the bars, the rest of his body slammed against the metal frame. The gate violently shook but held. The werewolf tried repeatedly, hitting the gate harder and harder as his frustrations rose.
The other werewolves had been pacing around, waiting for the first to break through the gate. They moved in and out of the moonlight, like black ghosts. However, they soon got bored of waiting and began throwing themselves at the gate too. Jaws snapping, claws scrapping, legs flaying and their desperate snarling and howls crying out.
Lottie, fear totally over coming her, screamed and threw herself down to the floor. She tried to get up, but the nightdress was twisted around her legs. Tears of pain and fear wet her eyes. Lottie screamed again louder then before, knowing the noise would awake someone in the house.
Outside, Lottie heard the gate continue to shake and the werewolves, snarling and trying to scramble through.
Finding her feet, Lottie crossed the rug covered floor and opened the door. Light from a left on gas lamp in the hallway stung her eyes and she took a moment. Going over, she stood in the glow and tried to calm herself down.
The swinging of a door opening made her jump and Lottie looked up the corridor to see a bobbing candle in the darkness.
‘Who’s that? Lottie?’ her older brother’s voice asked.
‘Yes. It’s me, John,’ Lottie answered, her voice sounding breathless, ‘there’s werewolves at the front gate!’
‘What?’ John cried and he hurried over to her.
‘I couldn’t sleep, so I looked outside and they saw me!’ Lottie explained.
John rushed into her bedroom, his bare footsteps loud.
Lottie peered around the door frame after him and watched as her brother came to a stop at the window and swore loudly.
Turning away, John came back to her, ‘go to mother’s room. Lock the door and stay there together.’
Lottie nodded and hurried away. She ran along the corridors, her night dress flying out behind her. A few gas lamps lit her way but Lottie knew how to get to her mother’s room without being able to see the way. Up a small staircase and she was there, knocking on her mother’s door, declaring herself and begging entrance.
Her mother, Isabella, opened the door, candle in hand and the light dancing off her loose, long golden hair. Lottie rushed in, closing and locking the heavy wooden door behind her.
‘There’s werewolves outside!’ Lottie shouted.
‘Do your father and brothers know?’ her mother questioned.
Lottie shook her head, ‘Just John knows. He told me to come here, tell you and for us to stay here together.’
‘We should prepare for attack,’ Isabella said, ‘Let’s light candles and the fire. Then get dressed.’
They moved away from the door. Lottie went to the fireplace and began stacking coal and wood on top of the ashes all ready there. Her mother began lighting candles around the room.
‘Shouldn’t we go to the cellar?’ Lottie asked.
‘There is a passageway from here to there, under the trapdoor by the window.’
‘Like in my bedroom?’
‘Yes. Your grandfather’s idea after that horrible night when werewolves got in and roamed through the house,’ Isabella spoke.
‘They killed grandma, uncle William who was only four years old and two maids,’ Lottie picked up, the story having been burned into her memory from the countless retelling of it, ‘the butler’s son, dad’s butler now, has bad scars from trying to protect the other servants.’
‘And it’s how your father lost his left foot,’ Isabella finished.
Lottie nodded, ‘they trapped all the werewolves in the East wing and burnt it to the ground.’
‘And ever since then, your grandfather and father have trained everyone how to prepare and defend themselves from werewolf attacks; how to fire a gun and fight with a knife. Even you, my only daughter, despite my wishes, have been taught all of that too.’
‘I know,’ Lottie said quietly as she finished setting up the firewood.
She lit a match, placed it into the fireplace and watched the flames quickly beginning to burn the wood. Lottie stood up and joined her mother in the middle of the room. They hugged tightly and her mother kissed her forehead.
A gun shot rang out, followed by shouting men’s voices.
Lottie jumped, gasping and turning towards the door.
‘Let’s get dressed,’ her mother cried as she grabbed Lottie’s hand and pulled her towards the wardrobe.
Yanking open the doors, Isabella pushed through all her dresses and to the back of the wardrobe. She pulled out two sets of men’s clothing; shirts, large travelling jackets, trousers, long woollen socks and knee length leather boots.
Helping each other, they dressed quickly then tied their long hair up in buns.
Then from underneath her bed, Isabella pulled out a rifle, two pistols, ammunition; sliver bullets, and four daggers. They were just like the ones Lottie had under her bed.
Isabella handed her daughter the two pistols and two of the daggers, without saying anything but with a determined look set on her face.
Lottie put one of the daggers in each boot then loaded the pistols and placed them with the rest of the ammunition in the deep pockets of the jacket. Her mother did everything the same.
Ready for anything, they sat down on the bed facing the door and listened to the sounds of fighting raising from the front of the house. Gun shots, male cries and shouts mingled with the howling, snarling and painful cries of the werewolves.
A few minutes later, they heard the clattering of claws across bare floorboards, snarling, snapping of jaws and sniffing from underneath the door. Then the door shook as something huge hit it.
‘Get behind the bed,’ Isabella whispered, nudging Lottie.
The girl did as she was told, drawing the pistols and the ammo from her pockets. Whilst her mother stood up, cocked the rifle and aimed it at the door which was badly shaking as the werewolf tried to get in. The wood began splitting, cracking around a hole in the middle and a large black nose followed by a grey muzzle poked through.
Isabella stood her ground, the butt of the rifle against her shoulder, her eyes fixed along the top of the barrel. Her finger brushed the trigger, waiting for the right moment to fire.
The first werewolf from before burst through the door, using the force of it’s body to break through the hole. Bits of wood flew everywhere and the chaos, Isabella fired.
The shot was loud, deafening herself and Lottie, there was a burst of flame followed by smoke and the werewolf let out a painful cry but didn’t go down. Instead, he leapt through the air and before she could get away, the werewolf landed on Isabella pinning her to the bed.
Lottie screamed, got up and fired at the werewolf without aiming. Both bullets hit the werewolf’s bent neck and sank in deep. The werewolf growled deeply, showing off blood stained teeth, froth dripped from it’s mouth and the werewolf moved up onto of Isabella, trying to reach over to snap at Lottie.
Isabella punched the werewolf’s stomach, grappled the beast and rolled onto the floor with him. Disappearing out of Lottie’s sight. Snarls and her mother’s cries rose, claws and boots scrapped across the floor. Isabella tried to grab one the daggers in her boots but her hands were full of fur as she tried to keep the werewolf’s mouth away from her face.
Shaking, Lottie dashed around the bed and aimed the pistols again. However, she realised that she couldn’t fire as her mother was wrestling with the werewolf and the risk of shooting her was too great. Lottie held her ground, her mind running through everything she could possible do.
Lottie dropped the pistols, pulled the daggers from her boots and waited until the werewolf was on top of her mother. Then Lottie jumped on top of the werewolf, bring the sliver daggers down into the werewolf’s fur. The blades slide into the skin then the body of the beast, going right up to the hilt.
The werewolf let out an anguish cry and twisted to the side. Lottie didn’t let go of the daggers in time and the werewolf fell on top of her. Lottie kicked with both legs, used the force to pull the daggers free then plunged them down to the side of the werewolf before he could get up again. There was a crack of rib bones as the blades drove in and the werewolf’s head snapped around and he’s teeth closed around Lottie’s lower leg.
Lottie screamed in pain then gun shots from the pistols rang out. The werewolf twitched then became still, the jaws loosing on Lottie’s leg. The werewolf’s blood pooled across the floor.
Isabella dragged Lottie away and towards the trap door then down the hidden passageway and into the cellar. Lamps and candles were all ready burning down here and all the female servants were gathered around makeshift beds or the old dinning room table.
Upon seeing their mistresses, the servants hurried to help and hear the tale of the fight. The leather boot and woollen socks had saved Lottie’s leg which was badly bruised but thankfully the skin hadn’t been broken. Once it had been cleaned and treated, Lottie rested in one of the beds and fell asleep.
Voices woke her later and Lottie found that all the men had joined them in the cellar. she listened to some of their talk but finally, she rose and asked, ‘what happened?’
Her mother, father and three brothers turned towards her.
‘It’s over,’ her father replied, ‘we killed them all.’
‘Thank God,’ Lottie answered.
‘And you,’ John spoke, ‘if you hadn’t been awake and seen them at the gate we wouldn’t have had enough time to fight them.’
‘And you fought so bravely against the werewolf that attack us,’ Isabella added.
‘Yes. All the training paid off,’ Lottie said, ‘I’m glad it’s over now.’