Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Psalm 86:1

Danny stirs. He lay on his cot beside his sister, the fire cold and dark and his parents asleep in their loft. Scratching and rustling, the thump of tiny bodies fat on the remains of dinner not yet swept from the floor as whatever vermin infesting their house scrambled to hide.

'Yeah you better run.' He thought, shifting beneath the blankets that do nothing to keep them warm. At least the wind has died, he is grateful for that, and thinks for a moment, as he rearranges himself in an attempt to find sleep again. He wonders what woke him, but considers it the mice, or perhaps the sting of bites he feels welling up over his skin, he slaps at one of the bugs and feels others crawling. Disgusted he flips himself over, brushing his body hastily. There is no fire left to burn them so he crushes them in his hands and tosses their carcasses to the floor.

An impatient banging at the door startles him. Well, that explains his sudden wakefulness, he hears the low roof above him creek and knows a parent will be down soon, but he grabs the wood axe and creeps towards the door. Who knows what kind of Lutins* roamed these strange forests, he was certain he had seen a Matagot** yesterday though his sister called him daft. Opening the door he gazed a the saddled horse waiting outside, pawing at the snow, its breath a fog in the air. It lifted its head to gaze at him with tired eyes. He gripped the axe harder and kept an ear tuned to the heavy footsteps of his father down the ladder behind him.

"Who is it at this hour?" Jack asked and he turned to answer him when a looming shadow fell across him and, with a shout, he fell back, the axe thumped in the earthen floor.

"Whoa there boy." Greeted the intruder and Danny stared up into the grin of a large weathered looking man.

"Skulker, what brings you here at this most unholy of hours?" His father leaned over his sprawled form to clap their guest on the bicep. "Is Vlad well?" he asked of their landowner.

"When I left, as well as any man can be. He sent me with news Fenton, and its news you'll enjoy." He lifted Danny up with a strong, steady grip and patted the dust off his sleeping gown. "Sorry about the scare boy, thought I was Le Cheval there, didn't you?"

Danny didn't quite embarrass himself with the nod when his father cut in. "Nonsense, Danny's a practical boy, his sister perhaps, she's always reading those books. Always goes on about Charlemange, probably would have fancied herself visited by Morgan le Fay."***

"Huh, what?" the bundle of blankets shifted and his sister's wild red hair peaked out.

"Nothing Jaz, go back to sleep." Danny threw one of the blankets over the rod above the cot as a curtain shielding her from view.

"Danny, go un-tack Skulker's horse before it freezes out there." His father told him as he started to build a fire again.

"Thats alright, I have a few others to visit the next few days, I'll stay at an inn for an hour or two come sun up, but I have a long road ahead, and it's all in the snow." He moved into the room as the fire fed on the kindling and sat at the same stool Danny's mother had a few hours before. "But this is nice, very nice. I think my eyes are frozen." Skulker was a brave man, one had to be in this age of darkness where the light of the fire did little to keep the creatures of night at bay. Skulker, as they called the man, was a guard of the Masters household who spent most of his time delivering messages or escorting guests safely through the woods, at night. "Vlad sent me to tell you one of the ships came into port."

"What?" Jack said loudly, and Danny hushed him. Madie, Danny's mother, stepped down from the ladder in a conservative gown. She had probably spent the time between the door answering and now to dress appropriately for guests.

"Yes, it came in several hours ago, Vlad sent me to deliver the news to everyone who has cargo aboard. The crew's pay will take a large chunk out of the goods, but you have bolts of silk and spices and that furniture you ordered, Madeline, from that crafter. I know you'll probably have to sell them, but its such a beautiful set that you simply must see them first. Sit in that fine chair you wanted so much, just once."

His mother looked close to tears, touched by the words and relieved by the news. "This is so wonderful, God truly delivers doesn't He?"

"I've never seen Him do otherwise." And they embraced. "I must get going, sorry to wake you."

"Think nothing of it, this is news worth waking for, thank you my friend, truly." and Jack saw him out while Danny added wood to the fire. "I'll tack the old horse, head down there in the morning, Thank you." and they clasped eachother in hugs and bid farewell. Danny stared into the fire, a sense or unease settling over him. Was this not what his family was waiting for, God's deliverance? He cannot help but fear that this is more a sign of foreboding. He wished his father not to leave at sunrise, but didn't voice his sudden apprehension

He set about making breakfast instead while his father parents went back to bed for the few hours of the night that remained. He doesn't know how badly he'd wish he'd said something, in a few days, doesn't know how his life would change.

So when light comes and he sees his father off with the rest of his family he crushes it down, not knowing that once his father rounds that curve and disappears into the trees he looses more than a relaxing day tramping through the forest with some Negro he isn't sure would even like to be his friend, if he doesn't call out he will soon find himself lost. Yet he stands there, watching, long after his mother has gone inside and his sister gathers snow to melt for water. He watches the trees around him, wondering what could be bothering him, but nothing clues him in. He kicks at the snow, grabs his musket and knife from the house, and heads down to the river, maybe if he finds ice thin enough he could fish, he is more concerned with escaping this feeling then food however.

Oh Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence, let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.

Psalm 88:1-2

Its important to remember that La Bete Gevaudan did not make her appearance until June 1st, 1764, over fifty years after this story takes place. However this is still a superstitious time, here are some lesser known French creatures.

* A Lutin is a type of Fae, one of it's shapes is a lone horse saddled and ready to ride called Le Cheval Bayard.

** A Matagot is a mostly evil spirit that appears in the form of an animal.

*** Do I even need to tell you about her? She's mythical creature, had a certain son with Julius Caesar named Oberon, you know, king of the Fairies in the legends of Charlemange?

And Rin completely yet another chapter of heavily Christian French stuff. I have no idea where its going, I just edit and post. Rin has a new laptop, but It's shift key is broken so nothing is being capitolized, and those special characters you get with it are gone too. never know how important a key is until its gone and suddenly I have a million more things to do. I'm Glad Kedo does the fact checking, as most of this shit comes straight from Rin's head and whatever books she has lying around. I don't think she's ever made a huge historical error, but Kedo often finds small ones, not that i remember those off the top of MY head.

Next chapter Dash, the wearbeast version anyway, meets up with Jack and things get started.