The woods whistled a warning as a rustling of leaves gave way behind me. I turned snarling until the wind shifted and I recognized the Leader’s scent.
“Forgive me,” I lowered my head and left my neck exposed. A gesture requiring the highest amount of trust for a wolf.
“You have spoken to the girl in red.” Vulrich growled. “Yet she still lives?”
“She is mine, to kill or not, to do as I wish.” I snarled from my vulnerable position.
“She has heard you speak. She must die. Bring me her body before moonrise or I shall slaughter her myself.” Vulrich looked down at me with scorn before he vanished into the trees. He was not a merciful hunter. He drug out the death of his prey in such a ruthless manner that no one dared challenge his position. I could not defeat him in battle. Not even a Woodsmen has ever been able to strike him down.
I stood frozen in the red light of the sun as it fled from this land. There would be no more visits with Scarlett. I raced down the path until she was in view. “Girl!” I growled. She turned and knelt next to me on the path. The last glimpse of sunlight was retreating over the mountains.
“What is it, Marrok?”
“You can never enter the woods again. I have been ordered to slay you if you do.” I commanded breathlessly.
“You won’t hurt me, Marrok. I know you won’t.” She reached out her hand to pat my head and I knew what I had to do. I jerked and bit her hand viciously.
She recoiled and squealed in pain. Big salty tears fled from her eyes as they darted and searched my face for some explanation. “Why are you doing this? You can’t push me away. I love the woods and will never fear it.” I barked violently, but she stood firm.
I ran back into the trees and watched as she fled to the grandmother’s house. Her hand, wrapped in the red cape, was dripping sweet smelling blood. I heard Vulrich’s command howl in the distance. He was not going to wait for Scarlett to stray from the path. I had given him the perfect excuse to attack. I raced to the rear of the house. Several sets of glowing yellow eyes watched me from across the opening. The back door opened as the grandmother hobbled out with a red cape in hand. She shuffled toward the washing barrel.
I took a running start and jumped, snatching her by the neck and ending her quickly. She would feel little pain at least. I devoured most of her body and wrapped it in the red cape before dragging the kill to Vulrich at the edge of the tree line.
“Here is the child. I have done as commanded, call off the attack.” I pleaded.
Vulrich sniffed what was left of the kill and retreated into the darkening wood with marked disappointment. He hated to call off a slaughter. If Scarlett ever entered the forest…
I suddenly understood what I must do. I used my teeth to gently pull a night gown and cap from the clothesline and burrowed into them. I trotted inside the house to the grandmother’s bed. I pulled back the covers with my blood soaked teeth and snuggled inside just as Scarlett entered the room.
She halted and her eyes widened in recognition. She searched my face in disbelief. I watched her heart crashing to pieces before my eyes.
“Oh, Grandmother, what big eyes you have!” She said grabbing the wall to steady herself.
“The better to see you with, my dear.” I now knew this would be the last time I would ever see her.
“Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have.” She sobbed and held out her injured hand to stroke my ear.
“The better to hear you with my dear.” I said.
“Oh, Grandmother, what big teeth you have!” She could barely finish her words.
“All the better to eat you with, my dear Scarlett.” I lunged, knocking her to the floor, snarling and snapping inches from her flushed cheek. A sharp stab stuck in my chest and a lump welled into my throat as I kept her gaze. I watched as the fear of me flooded her eyes for the very first time. Just when it became too painful for me to look at her, she screamed for her Woodsman. He came barreling through the door a moment later and grabbed me by the scruff and pulled me outside to the front of the house. Scarlett stood in the doorway silently watching as he forced me over to the cutting stump.
I lowered my head on top of the trunk, exposing my neck, and quickly memorized her face as he lifted the axe high in the air. I heard howling in the distance and then Scarlett’s scream and then nothing.
I now lay inside the warm cabin. There is nothing left of me but a wolf skin blanket.
I happily give warmth to Scarlett’s son as he sleeps by the fire. When Scarlett rocks him at moonrise she tells him stories of a day when she was a daring girl and I was a wild animal. She tells him to never, ever enter the woods or speak to a wolf.
I hug him tightly every night and every night I am at peace.