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Wolf Child

In the morning, my wolves danced around me, their playful spirit making me feel light. My favorite wolf, Nakai the Alpha, sits at my side watching them dance. He snuggles to my side warming me deeply despite the cold of the snow that lies pure and white in my clearing. Smoke rises steadily from the wooden home I constructed when I first began life in the forest.

I feel no regret at having forsaken my days at the court. There I would have been forced to keep my hair up—out of my face—and wear dresses that changed the natural shape of my body. The men would covet me as if I meant nothing to them—they only had to be pleased with the red color of my hair and how large my breasts seemed. Here, my wolves accept me as I am and never ask for more.

My forest is large, vast and untraveled except by the wolves and I. No hunter dares to walk this deep in the woods for fear of the Wolf Child.

I admit I have made a reputation of myself. When I first left civility and walked the trees many came to claim me, suitors and family alike. The wolves, in an attempt to keep their companion, gifted me with their strength. They say I command the wolves to my bidding but that is not true. I have merely won the favor of my wolves. Even if I wish to leave my forest I doubt my wolves will let me.

Nakai’s ears prick up and he jumps to his feet. He growls a command to the other wolves and they too turn to the threat.

I rise to my feet as Nakai stalks out in front of the pack, his female, Akela, at his side. She raises her snow-white head to him in question but he does not answer. He remains motionless at the edge of the trees, fur standing on end, an unbroken growl resounding through his body.

I walk past the pack despite their insistence to herd me back to my home. The only wolf that gives me pause is Shunka, Nakai’s beta. He bares his teeth at me, urging me back, but I know better. None of the wolves will harm me after being such loyal company for my many years here. I push past him, having to jerk my cloak from his grasp once or twice.

Neither Akela nor Nakai are happy to have me so close to the danger they sense but with the rest of the pack surrounding me they focus on the intruder, trusting Shunka, who grudgingly stands in front of me. I cannot tell if he is growling at the danger or at me for being stupid enough to get close to it.

There is no sound for a long while. It is as if we are all waiting for something to happen but are not willing to start anything ourselves. My wolves fill me with the dangerous calm of confidence. I clench my fingers around my wooden staff, carved of the rowan tree. I pray for the strength and guidance of the spirits that guard the forest. They have yet to let me down.

A branch cracks just beyond the edge of the tree line. I tense, as do my wolves around me. Snow tumbles down from the tree branches as if someone is stumbling wildly in the forest. I warily watch the trees my brows scrunching together. Any man who would pursue me to do harm should be more careful on my land. He should attempt to be undetectable. This one is so obviously here that I cannot believe he is here for me.

Out of the forest walls a limb peeks out. An arm. Nakai growls and lunges for the appendage. A surprised yell rings out as Nakai’s teeth embed themselves into the mans flesh. I stand motionless in the ring of wolves, waiting, as Nakai pulls the stranger from the trees.

The man is pale, close to the color of the snow itself. His hair is an inky dark that reminds me of the night sky. His clothes are just as dark and put him apart from the rest of the scenery. His blue eyes are wide with fear and astonishment. I pluck at the feather in my hair nervously. Something about this situation does not feel right.

I shoo away Shunka and push my way to Nakai. He lets go of the man only to bare his teeth in my face. I roll my eyes but know I will not get through him. I settle back on my heels and speak calmly to the frightened man.

“Lay on your back and show Nakai your throat.” I quietly tell him. He nods and does as I say, his jaw clenching as Nakai fastens his teeth around the strangers’ throat. I run a finger through Nakai’s fur, silently telling him to let the man go. Reluctantly he does, releasing the man’s neck and backing up to the rest of the pack pushing me with him.

I grunt as I land on the cold ground glaring at Nakai through narrowed eyes. He stares back without regret, pushing his muzzle into me in an attempt to force me farther back.

I stand instead, towering over him. He growls at me, but I ignore him, pushing on to crouch before the stranger. He looks up at me warily not making any movement to rise from his position on the forest floor.

“You know who I am?” I whisper to him, one hand reaching out to hold his chin, forcing his eyes to meet mine.

“I have heard the stories.” His voice rumbles over my senses, strange and new after so many years without human contact. I sigh.

“How do they speak of me now? Am I still the young rebel girl who is sure to return to the court, or am I the ruthless child of the forest?” I wonder aloud. How many times I have wished to have a link to the human world. It is not that I wish to live without my wolves, only that I have been lonely since the second year I spent in solitude.

“They speak of you as the Wolf Child. The ruthless ruler of the wolves who sacrifices all who endeavor to enter your forest.” His sapphire eyes glare at me with hatred. “My father came to this forest once. He was never seen again.”

I release his chin and laugh loudly to the sky. “You think I know your father? You think I’ve killed him? How old do you believe me to be?” My cheeks hurt from the wide smile spreading across my face. I have not laughed in years.

“Centuries old.” He answered in all honesty, his cheeks blushing despite the cold air.

I laugh again. “Though it is not proper to ask a woman her age, I can tell you I am not a day older than twenty-and-nine.”

His cheeks redden farther and I almost feel sorry for him. Akela nudges her way to me, standing over the stranger, who places himself in the same submissive position he had for Nakai. But Akela is not interested in his submission. She dips her head to him and takes a long sniff. Then, she backs away and her head lowers in what appears to be shame. I stare after her as she walks back to the pack, tail low and almost between her legs.

Nakai nuzzles her as she approaches in an attempt to lighten her spirits. I turn from the stranger to stare after her in confusion. Shunka’s head rears up abruptly and I turn just in time to see the stranger on his feet and running into the trees.

I jump to my feet, taking after him as fast as one of my wolves would. We race each other, him barely dodging the trees and me weaving expertly through them. I know the forest better than I knew the home I grew up in.

I stop suddenly as the land opens up to another clearing. Inside the clearing are many more men, most of them atop great steeds that paw the ground restlessly. I back up a few steps, receding into the shadow of my trees.

The stranger runs right up to one of the men on horseback, speaking to him brusquely. The other man listens intently, his eyes lifting from the man every once in a while, searching the forest wall. I watch them suspiciously, my eyes narrowing. These men are invading my forest. For that they will pay.

The man jumps from his horse, grey eyes very like my own searching for something. Something like me. His red hair gleams in the sunlight and all I can think is, am I related to this brute? We look so much alike it seems as though we must share a parent.

In an uncertain decision I step from the trees just far enough to be seen. I can feel my wolves in the surrounding trees, their keen eyes watching over me. It makes me feel safer.

The man’s face splits into a dazzling smile as he abandons his conversation with the stranger. “Sister,” he calls, holding his arms wide as though I will run and hug him. A wolf growls behind me, so low I almost did not hear it.

“I am only sister to my wolves.” I tell him sharply. “I have no relationship with you. What makes you so sure we share blood?” I c*** my head to the side, waiting.

He laughs, making the hair of my arms stand on end. “We look as though we share blood. Who else in this land has the same storm grey eyes and hair of the sunset?” He stalks closer to me with every word until he is just before me, close enough to touch.

“I have seen many that look as I. What makes you different?”

He reaches out a hand and brushes aside some of the kohl lined around my eyes. I growl and jerk away. My wolves surge closer. “Our mother has passed dear sister. Mauled to death by a ferocious beast.” He says, avoiding my question.

I push him away with all my force, making him stumble back five feet. He looks surprised and takes a moment to regain his balance. “I know it is hard to fathom—”

“It is hard for me to fathom why I should believe the drivel that spills from your lips. Brother or no, do you believe news of my mothers death will force me back to court?” I cut him off angrily.

He steps closer again one hand cupping my cheek, only because I let him. “Sister, on her death bed, our mother told me to seek you out. She bade me tell you a wedding was in order.” He leaned foreword to whisper in my ear, making me clench my fists in fury at his arrogance. “Our wedding. The line must stay pure.”

I let out a ragged cry of rage and my wolves burst from the trees jumping at the men in the clearing. They yell at each other as my wolves attack, the horses spooked and trampling away from my forest. My so-called brother leans toward me despite the chaos, brushing his lips to mine.

“Die.” I growl into his lips just as I feel Nakai bury his teeth into the back of my brothers’ neck.

He stares blankly in open-mouthed astonishment as I back away, letting his lifeless body crumble to the ground. Nakai laps up the blood from the wound he inflicted. I kneel next to them staring Nakai straight in the eyes. He backs up from the body, leaving me to my own.

I flip over the body and close the eyes that are so like my own. My wolves converge around me, having driven their opponents out of my forest. I stand, eyeing the clearing. There are spots of blood staining the once pure white snow. It saddens me that men are so stupid as to think they could force me into a life I do not want.
I back away from my wolves and watch them feast.




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