...King flees to the woods.
Harte stands in the doorway, still in a state of shock as he watches King disappear into the night

The townspeople see the King fleeing and leaving behind Harte, with his still-bleeding wound.
The townspeople become enraged, form a mob, and try to track down the King to make him pay for what he had done to one of their own

The mob chases down, the now beast, King and finally manage to corner him on a cliff

Harte had roused from his musing due to the commotion and shortly catches up to the group

There he sees King in his true form; wild, angry, and poised to kill.

The townspeople, though weak individually, brandished their pitchforks and torches-daring King to make another move.

King can not fight them all. He could halve their numbers in a moment, but not before succumbing to the mass of hate-filled eyes and dulled knives.

King spots Harte among the crowd, standing amongst the mob with just as much bewilderment in his eyes as the others.
King realizes that he can not escape this without harm, whether it be his life or his heart. He decides quickly as the first drop of rain escapes the black clouds..
Harte will see King for what he truly is.

A monster.

It happened so quickly, so abruptly, that three of the townsfolk had already fallen before the rest had raised their slacking arms.
One by one, their numbers slowly dwindled, felled by crushed bones and slashed arteries.. their blood diluted in the now steadily falling rain.

A horrible, grating sound briefly startled the mob. It was like someone had just fired a cannon among them. So loud and resounding a deep echo within their very cores.

King had stilled. The townspeople hesitated.
Amongst the frenzy a man had fallen. Swallowed in the commotion and half buried in mud
He had managed to raise his feeble pitchfork
Raised it as King had lunged at another man..
The prongs had slid between his ribcage, into the fleshy muscles and organs within his chest.
Disbelieving, King glanced down to inspect the wound.. and then snapped his head up to stare at Harte.
Harte, who had not moved from his spot behind the group. Overwhelmed with the chaos and confusion. He caught King's gaze and stared him straight in the eyes.

The second howl, if possible, was even louder than the first.
A second tremor ran through the mob like a wave, and just like that the will to fight had flared like a rekindled flame.
King yanked the pitchfork out of his body, blood gushing from the wound. He paid it no mind.
His claws shot out and wrapped around the frail neck of the one who impaled him. A quick flick of the wrist and he lay amongst the others on the ground. Trampled, broken, no longer distinguishable from one another.
King fought furiously, killing many, receiving many wounds..
His gaze never wavering from Harte's.

He was a monster. A monster who had nothing left to himself but his instinct. And his lingering sorrow for love lost.

Harte could not help it, even while his friends and family were being killed.. no. Slaughtered before his very being..
He could not force himself to look away from the beast that was once his lover.

The creature killed mercilessly, several victims had still yet to die. Left to bleed out and cry for the reprieve they will never receive.
Not tonight.

The eyes he was transfixed on though.. they were so very human. Burning with passion, rage, hatred.. but moreover all else.. they were burning with love.
The eyes he had familiarized himself with every morning and every night. Beneath the warmth of the covers, ignoring the light of dawn. The only thing that had mattered to them was the unyielding passion held in each lover's eyes.

Harte could stand no more.

He broke through the wall of people, of bodies, the living now limited to no more than ten.
He didn't stop even as he reached the now quivering form at the center.

The King was tired.. he had fought longer and harder than should have ever been possible. But he was done. His love had seen his true self, and he had fought for it. But his time was now over.
His legs finally gave out, the left bleeding profusely from what looked like a knife wound. The pain was not there, though. The only ache he felt was in his heart as he watched Harte stand above him..
The King could no longer determine his expression. The rain had not let up, the blood loss had been too great.. he could no longer see those beautiful orange eyes that he had once regarded in reverence.

Harte pushed the hovering militia away from the the creature.
Kneeling down, he lifted it's blood stained face, studying it for a moment.

This was King, his lover.
No matter his form.

Harte knew King was dying.
He had limited time.

Slowly Harte let King's head lay back down on the ground. He lied down on the ground, ignoring the murmur that arose from the mob.
Next to his beast he lay, fearlessly bringing their faces together.
Harte placed a kiss gently on King's forehead and again beside his eyes, until his lips had reached the black and twisted ears.

His lips parted, and for what seemed like hours no sound escaped them. Only the slightest intake of breath and a moment's hesitation.

"Take me."

King's eyes widened, his head rolled on one side to better look at his lover.

"I cannot do what you ask.. though the monster in me begs for it, I cannot allow myself to harm you again."

"You are dying."

And though King had accepted this idea before the fight had even begun.. Coming from the lips of Harte, his hunter, made his heart tighten painfully.

"We are wed, bound to one another... until death do us part."

King was unsure where Harte was going with this.. he was so very, very tired.

"...And though it's now too late-"

At this Harte paused. And it was only then that King noticed that it was not longer just the rain that clouded his vision..

Harte was crying.

Just as the sky had wept for his plight, his lover was now reduced to tears at the mere thought of losing his beloved beast.

"..I've realized that I cannot bear for us to part. So please... let death bring us together. And never shall we part again."

King trembled.
Whether from the fatal wounds he suffered, or from the indescribable feeling coursing through him.

Harte closed his eyes.

Just as the sun left the sky and the sunset faded.


And then silence reigned...


The Forest God watches over all of her children.
She hears all and she sees all.

The end of two lovers was nothing new. A candle burning out left room for more to be lit.

But the two children that now lay dead in the mud, a beast and a man in each others arms..
The beast's body was littered with wounds and holes--created by the men that had previously welcomed him into their homes, their lives, when he had appeared as one of them.
The man's neck snapped and the skin pierced, blood seeped through the puncture marks on either side of his throat. And yet.. even in death he held a small, slight smile.
For he had realized that it matters not what form love appeared in..

The Forest God was so touched by the great sacrifice made by the two, for the sake of their love lasting until their last dying breath..

..that she decided to bestow one final gift onto King.


Though greatly shaken by the events that had occurred.. the town recovered. As all living creatures do, their wounds healed with time.

Rarely did anyone speak of that night, so perplexing was the story. Any questions that arose regarding the man and the beast were replied to in a murmured hush.

From that night onward, however hard they tried to forget, the townspeople were plagued with a lone wolf.

The wolf never entered their town, never stole sheep from the flocks, never stalked their children.

But every night the wolf wander out to the cliff on the edge of the woods, and howl.

It was a strange howl, it seemed neither lonely nor wounded.

And no matter how hard the local hunters tried to track it down.. they could never find a trace of the wolf.

Sightings of the creature were few and far between.. and something regarded as tales to scare the children.
The reports were eerily all similar.. a pure black wolf, seemingly with no pack, and bright orange eyes.

The wolf, though strange as it may be, is written off as nothing more than a pest.

It was never thought that the wolf may be linked with that fateful night, when so many of the town's brothers and sisters had fallen.

It was never thought that the two tortured souls had been granted their dying wish.
That the Forest God had bestowed upon them the gift of immortal love.
That their souls would join and manifest into an eternal being.
It was never predicted that every night on that cliff, the reminder of their love would sound out into the darkened skies.

But forever in their hearts was the story of that night preserved.

The night of the Cocklebur King.