Joe closed his eyes. It was another beast. All was lost. There was nothing more he could do. The adrenaline that had fuelled was quickly being consumed by the fight.
There was a yelp. The branch was knocked out of his hand with a great force.
He opened his eyes just as Cerberus was standing over the creature that had very nearly claimed his life. With one plunge of its head, it tore open the beasts neck. And the beast lay dead.
Was this really the hound that he’d been playing fetch with?
‘Good boy Cerby,’ came a child-like voice.
It was Hel. And Joe was thankful to hear it.
‘You okay, Joe?’ she asked.
‘Yes. Are you?’
‘I’m fine. I don’t know where Agnes has got to though.’
‘What were those things?’
‘Werewolves. They’ll be back soon. We need to get moving.’
Werewolves? Of course, they were. It was like being in Bloxwich on a Saturday evening, thought Joe.
‘Thanks,’ said Joe.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ replied Hel.
‘I was talking to Cerberus,’ said Joe, aware of how awful that sounded.
Cerberus looked over to Joe. The middle head’s tongue was lolling out of the side of the mouth. He looked so cute, so normal, well, as normal as a dog with three heads could look. It didn’t look as if he’d just finished off a werewolf. The only tell-tale sign was a blob of blood that the first head was trying to lick off the ear of the second head. Joe strolled over to Cerberus and buried his head into the thick neck fur of the dog. He smelled of wet dog and the zingy iron smell of blood and stale meat. He reached up and stroked the back of one of the dog’s many ears.
‘Thank you,’ he mumbled into the dog’s fur. Cerberus gave a tiny rumble that Joe interpreted as dog speak for “be cool man, it’s all good.” Suddenly he felt a pang in his chest.
He really missed Lola. Dogs were so loyal and they didn’t stab you in the back.
Joe felt something nudge his leg but chose to ignore it. He needed a minute.
But the thing nudging his leg was rather insistent. It pushed its head under Joe’s arm.
‘Hades, you daft dog,’ said Joe looking down at the dog who was wildly wagging its tail and persistently nudging Joe’s arm.
Joe looked up, startled as another load howl cut through the silence.
‘They’re back,’ said Hel. ‘Come on Cerby, time to go hunting.’ She turned to Joe and said, ‘I’ll leave Hades with you. I’ll keep the wolves away from the door. You really need to go, keep following the string north until you reach the Woodcutter’s cottage, okay? I’ll meet you there.’
Joe turned to find the string. It was nowhere to be seen.
He whirled around to tell Hel it was gone, but she had already disappeared.