I have been here before, but only ever in my dreams.
My feet are being urged on though I have no idea where I am going, as if drawn to a particular place.
I have not felt this way many times before, but when I do, there’s nothing to be done but follow. Normally I just like to wander here on my own accord, the dark forest at night that holds so many wonders and mysteries. Each tree holds a secret story, each leaf whispers my name as I brush past. The twigs snap underfoot in harmony to the chirps of the night creatures.
But now it is different. Now, not only do the trees embrace me, but even the subtle breeze is calling to my heart, urging me on and further in still.
The wind speaks to me like a good friend. He is whispering through the leaves, stirring the trees with its gossip of far away lands and heroic adventures. I watch it dance around the shafts of moonlight, dappling the forest floor with an ever changing pattern of swirls and designs.
There is a compulsion I can’t ignore as I follow a different path to other nights. But I’ve seen it in my dream. These trees, this silvery moonlight, the chirps of cicadas and rustlings of field mice—it is all familiar.
My heart quickens as I wonder what is going to happen. Because even in my dream, though I’ve been here, I never seem to know what happens next. It becomes blurry and hazy, as a cold blanket washes over me.
So I keep going, brushing my fingers over the ferns and through the soft bookleaf pines, hoping for the best. My wolf is sensing it too, her ears tingling with excitement.
As the gentle breeze shifts it carries a sound that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I hear a snarl, a deep growl that bounces off the trees and echoes in my ears. It sets my heart racing, and my feet running away from its source. I don’t turn around to see it, knowing it is following, stalking amongst the trees, watching me. I feel tears prick my eyes. I should never have come here. I shouldn’t have risen from my warm bed and followed the sense to explore. It was stupid of me, and now my life will pay for it.
But was I really that foolish? Haven’t I always been led by this sixth sense, this whispering that shows me new layers of the world that no one else sees? I have never been wrong of my impressions before.
So why is tonight different?
The wolf behind me suddenly emerges from the trees in front of me, and I scream in shock. His black eyes are glistening, his hackles raised in a threat. He is not a very savage looking beast, though I get the impression he wants to be.
Still, I am frightened by him. I have never been a very brave girl, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Ever since I watched my parents get slaughtered by rogues, I have run from all conflict. I choose to be safe at all times, and hide from danger. I usually never wander far from home, yet something about tonight felt safe.
But right now, this wolf doesn’t want me here, that much is perfectly clear. Did I cross my territory border and am now trespassing? I didn’t notice, but this wolf knows. He’s telling me with bared teeth and razor sharp claws.
Without a moment to think, I dive off the path and scramble through the bushes, jumping over fallen logs and weaving between trees. I don’t want to shift, as that will make me more traceable. Every smart wolf knows it is more sensible to hide this way. Every sensible wolf is also in bed at this ungodly hour.
Everything about this night is ungodly, and I whisper prayers for forgiveness as I run and stumble. Sharp tree branches scratch at my hair and clothes, and my arms try pushing them back as silent tears leak from my eyes. With each ragged breath, I’m promising I will never sneak out again if only I would be spared now.
My saviour greets me up ahead.
Or rather, I greet the weightless air as I fall headlong over a cliff, the water of a river rushing up to meet me. With a scream strangled from my throat, I plummet down fast and squeeze my eyes shut against certain death. Then I am engulfed by the frigid waters, and everything goes black.
So this is the cold blanket I have woken up to.
The slate grey wolf heard the scream, followed by a splash, and winced only slightly at the evident death he’d just caused. He wasn’t sorry. The little she wolf had been walking on ground that was prohibited to her, so he’d done as every warrior should do. What every Beta of a pack would do. Protecting his borders was a job he took very seriously, even against a wolf that seemed rather innocent.
As he padded his way up the slope and towards the centre of his territory, he met up with his Alpha who stood on the rise near their northern border.
“Did you deal with it?”
After shifting back to his human form, the Beta nodded his head and matched his Alpha’s stance; feet spread apart, arms crossed firmly over his chest, and eyebrow raised. “It was a girl.”
“Out here? At this time of night?” the Alpha dropped his arms and frowned. “What was she doing?”
“Just walking, but heading towards our pack home grounds.”
The Alpha growled. “You know how much I hate border crossers. They are a sign of weakness in our ranks, of leniency in the command.”
“I’m sure she is dead, and it won’t happen again,” the Beta hurried to explain.
“Even so, she must have had a very important reason to be crossing at this time of night.” The moonlight accentuated the Alpha’s cold blue eyes, and his hair as black as midnight shadows shone with an almost navy hue. As his eyes scanned the forest below, they took on a deadly gleam. “If she survived, and you see her again, don’t kill her, alright Beta Hamilton?”
“Sure, Alpha Malachi. But why?”
The Alpha clenched his fists, “I want you to bring her to me. I have a strange feeling about this wolf.”
“In what way?”
An almost sinister expression crossed the young Alpha’s face as he replied, “I want to question her about the recent killings on our territory.”