Ranah was visiting her uncle Brandur for the weekend in his cottage in the woods while her parents went to talk to the traders. It was already dark when the thunderstorm started. Rain lashed at the windows and the thunder boomed across the sky after bright forks of lightning and so it was a dark and stormy night when Ranah asked her uncle Brandur to tell her a story and this is what he said, “It was a dark and stormy night and I asked my uncle Drevon to tell me a story and this is what he said, “It was a dark and stormy night and I asked my uncle Jeman to tell me a story and this is what he said, “It was a dark and stormy night and-”
"Stop! Stop! I want a real story!" Ranah interrupted. "This one's boring! You tell it to me all the time!"
"Oh, but this is a real story. It's about me asking my uncle Drevon who asked my uncle-"
"Please?" Ranah begged from where she sat at his feet, she flinched as thunder boomed.
Uncle Brandur laughed, "Alright, little one, I'll tell you a "real" story this time. How about-"
Ranah screamed as there was a loud crash outside.
"It's alright, I got you," Uncle Brandur said softly, pulling her onto his lap, "It's probably just the wind knocking over some things in the shed. There's nothing to be afraid of. It's just lightning, wind, and a bit of thunder. Just like one of your father's boasting competitions and that ends up alright, doesn't it?"
Ranah clung to him tightly and whispered, "But what about the shifters? Aren't there shifters in the woods? And what about the elves? What if they come to get us?" She's heard all kinds of stories about what shifters and elves did to the people they killed.
"It will be alright," Uncle Brandur said, "The day hasn't come yet where the Great Brandur Shiftersbane can't take out a shifter or two. "
Ranah smiled, "Uncle, don't be silly, nobody calls you that."
"Yes but they should, I've got lots of furs to prove it. But this time it's just the wind and the wind's got no argument with a couple of humans like us. So why don't you let me tell you the story of a brave little girl just like you who was going to deliver some butter-"
"Why is it butter? Why not something yummy? Like cookies? I like cookies." Ranah asked, huddling closer into his warm jacket.
Uncle Brandur chuckled, low and deep, "Very well then, she was going to deliver cookies to her grandmother's house. and- Oh, listen to that. The rains starting to slow down. The thunder and lightning will stop soon, won't that be nice, Ranah?"
"Uncle! The story!" Ranah begged.
Uncle Brandur grinned, "Right, right, sorry, so the little girl with the red hood walked down the path that led through the woods. She should have gone straight there but she liked to look at all the pretty flowers on her way. As she was picking flowers, she met a wolf shifter. Now she knew it was a shifter because he transformed before he spoke to her,
"Little miss," the wolf said, "Where are you going?" The little girl was bright and she knew that the wolf could only want to eat her so she said, "I'm going to meet my grandmother. She'll miss me if I don't arrive on time." But the wolf was just as clever as he was vile, "I'm not going to harm you, miss, I just want to make sure you get to your grandmother safely, now where did you say that she live-"
Uncle Brandur stopped and looked towards the window with a frown as there were soft creaks on the porch outside. The kind that were made by someone walking on it. Ranah looked at the window nervously. "Uncle Brandur?"
There was another flash of lightning followed by a crack of thunder. In that flash, they saw a dark figure silhouetted against the curtains. Ranah clung to her uncle tightly.
"Uncle Brandur?" She asked, her voice trembling.
"Hush," Uncle Brandur whispered, putting his arms around her and holding her tightly.
In the silence that followed they heard the creaking footsteps on the wooden porch and saw the doorknob start to turn. It was locked. There was a soft growl from the other side of the door.
"Ranah. Into the attic. Now. I'll take care of this." Uncle Brandur whispered. "Go quickly."
"Is it a shifter? I'm scared." Ranah whispered, clutching his jacket as something thudded against the door, hard.
"Ranah. I told you to go to the attic. Do it now." Uncle Brandur's voice was hard as he gently pushed her off his lap and got to his feet.
"Ok," Ranah whispered and quickly went to the hallway, she hesitated as Uncle Brandur took his loaded crossbow off the hook on the wall. The door shook again, this time, there were obvious cracks in it. She quickly went down the hall and up the stairs into the dark, drafty attic just as the door crashed open downstairs.
Ranah heard the sound of a crossbow discharging and waited tensely. There was a horrible scream downstairs. Please don't let that be Uncle Brandur. Please. Please. Please, not Uncle Brandur. Ranah whimpered and hid behind the assorted furs and wooden crates against the attic wall. There were several crashes downstairs, doors banging open, and cloth tearing. Ranah whimpered. That meant... The crashes stopped suddenly and the house fell still. There wasn't any sound for several long agonizing moments. Ranah hesitantly got to her feet. Were they gone? Was it safe yet? What was going on?
Footsteps. I'm going to die! Ranah froze and held her breath trembling as soft footsteps padded down the hall. They stopped. There was no sound for one long horrible moment. Then a sniff. Like someone was trying to smell something. A door opened and then footsteps padded up the stairs. Ranah stifled a whimper and ducked beneath some of the furs and huddled inside them. The sniffing sound continued and got louder as the person came in. It stayed still for a moment. There was silence except for the soft dripping of water or... Ranah cut off that thought.
There was the stench of a wet animal in the room now. Ranah dared to take a glimpse through the furs. The agony of not knowing drove her to it. A dark lean shape was standing up tall and scanning the attic with reflective green eyes that gleamed as it turned its head. The figure started to move in her direction and she quickly ducked her head back under the furs. It crept closer until the smell of wet animal was overwhelming and she could hear the soft click of teeth. Ranah couldn't take it anymore. She scrambled out of the furs and bolted for the attic door. The figure tore aside the boxes to block her escape and backed her up against the wall. There was a soft purr, then claw-like and furry hands already slick with something warm and sticky grabbed her. Ranah screamed.
Ranah's parents came to pick her up two days later. The cottage had been broken into and torn apart. All they could find of Uncle Brandur and little Ranah were two clean white skeletons, one in the main room and the other in the attic, lying on a floor stained with blood.