The stillness of the moonlit landscape lent the world a supernatural quality. Wading through knee-deep darkness, the man in the worn black coat and the wide-brimmed hat had little more for protection than a prayer on his lips. Helsing van Rictofen stepped through the tall grass with the wary determination of a hunter stalking prey, trusty shotgun gripped firmly.
He brought up the shotgun calmly, cracked it open, loaded the silver buckshot. Frowned at the miles of tall grass rustling in the wind.
One stalk hesitated. Then it bent the wrong way.
Golden eyes in the night.
The shotgun kicked his shoulder as he fired once, twice. Wisps of acrid gunsmoke curled from the twin barrels. Without pausing he cracked the shotgun open, pulled out the spent shells, shoved in two more.
Then he watched the grass, waited for something to move, for a target to present itself.
No sounds but his measured breathing, no movement but the rustle of windswept grass.
He lowered the shotgun.
The beast lunged from the darkness.