The Night's Embrace

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The Lady of the Wood

Five months ago

Max followed the path of her new feather friend into the thickened forest. For a time she ran thru the forest, following Hramn's shadow across the snow until leaving the thick wood line and reaching a river. There the raven descended and the sound of voices was heard originating from a large gathering of bird in a tree. The congress of ravens quickly noticed the snow white wolf, a few lowered themselves a few branches to get a closer look while others remained unmoved and cautious on the upper levels. As Max approached, Hramn landed on a fallen log in front of her which prompted her to stop where he was and await.

How strange. Said an aged female raven looking down at the wolf, I had thought they were all hunted to extinction.

What makes you think she isn't just an ordinary wolf? One that has simply lost her mind being without her pack. Argued another with great skepticism.

Max sat down and looked at the group, I've never had a pack sir and I really do normally look like a human.

A different raven, an elderly and comforting grandmother asked, Then young one would you please show us.

The wolf's ears dropped down, I...

You don't know how, do you? The grandmother-like raven asked gliding down to beside Max's new friend. Hramn told us about you, that you refused to leave a human child to freeze to death. Is that true?

Fighting back tears the wolf nodded. I've been on the run for weeks because of what I am. I hid it for so long, but after I started working for other supernatural it became harder and harder to control it until--!

Breathe. The grandmother raven said. You don't have to say it all at once.

Max nodded and pawed away her tears. I found Anne, the human child, by chance. I couldn't just leave her, but I was also on the run. One of the werecats is trying to help me and he distracted the rest of his team long enough so I could get her home.

The grandmother raven looked up to the other elder birds of their congress. We should take her to the Lady of the Wood.

Instinctively Max lowered her ears, dropped her head and let out a small whine. That was the last thing she needed, for another supernatural to know of what she is, another person to reveal her truth if it had no been already another reason to avoid the world that had both welcomed and damned her. Hramn moved to Max, nudging his beak to her ear. Don't worry, she's not a bad person. She's lived in these woods for ages and has always taken care of sick, injured or orphaned animals. She healed my wing when I fell out of my nest and you see? He extended his wing to its full length. Like it never happened. I'm sure she can help you.

The wolf whined. I don't want to be lock up again.

Hramn shook his head. You won't, I'll be with you I promise.

Max nuzzled her muzzle into the bird some, though partly pushing him with a bit too much force, the gesture was understood and appreciated. After much discussion it was decided that Hramn would escort Max deeper into the forest to where the witch was, but whether or not she would be welcomed was not a decision the congress could make. The route was not far and much of the trek was flat save for a few hills she was on the other side of the valley toward the ocean. It was a day's flight by how ravens go and go was not a problem for Max to keep up with. Hours into their trip, a winter blizzard kicked up quickly, so much that Hramn was forced to lower himself to tree level and even then his wings nearly froze.

As a result the raven found himself riding on Max's back, her warm fur helping to keep him from losing feeling in his wings. Do you think your Lady of the Wood will be able to help me turn back into a human? Max asked as she trekked thru the rising snow. Hramn nodded. She is kind, wise and powerful. She's been living in these woods for hundred of years supposedly, but none know for certain because she outlives us all. By human standards I've heard she is exceptionally beautiful.

The wolf glanced back at the raven at his next question. What do you look like as a human?

I have long dark brown hair, grey eyes, I'm not quite as white as as my fur and pretty muscular for human women. I'm a bit taller than average too, but I'm pretty sure that's because of...being a werewolf. I am quite a looker by human standards too if i don't say so myself.

Hramn laughed. If you're as pretty a human as you are a wolf I'm sure you are.

Thanks. Max smirked. What about you? What do you look for in a raven?

Her voice, I want a raven that sings like an angel. The most beautiful sound I've ever heard in my life, but she has to also like the way I sing as well.

I thought male ravens build nests to woo potential partners? Max asked reciting a biology lesson she had in high school.

Hramn climbed on top of Max's head. I don't want a partner, I want a lover, a raven to love and care for beyond having eggs together.

He began to sing.

The night is long and the moon shall rise

Take to the skies, an everlasting flight

The wind is strong, hear it howl and fight

On a cold winter's night, when hope as fled

Look to the stars, may they guide your head

Max shut her eyes and listened to his voice, to the song he sang that provided a calmness that was nearly hypnotic.

Sorry, shall I stop?

The wolf shook her head. I like it, don't stop.

They walked thru the day until night came and the winds and snow died out until it was a calm peaceful silence broken only by the crunching of snow beneath her paws. She did not know where she was going, she knew only to continue west in the valley thru the woods and there she would find the signs that would lead her to where the witch is. Walking on and on, Max did not tire, she rarely was when under the influence of the moon, especially when it was full now. It illuminated the forest, making the shadows to appear blue almost, a beautiful color for a beautiful night.

Hey Max may I ask you something?

Of course.

Do you want to turn back into a human and stay that way?

The wolf stopped and there was a long pause. I can't even say I want to be human again...I never was to begin with, but I do want the choice to decide. I also miss having thumbs. The two laughed.

This was the first time you've become a full-fledged wolf right? Doesn't seem like it was intentional.

Max shook her head when walking again. It wasn't. I was in the military and after I got out I got another job working for a vampire princess. Sort of protecting and sort of going on missions, I never really did understand what my job was. When we were last fighting together we got cornered and I was outmatched. I didn't know what to do, I couldn't suppress my power and protect her, not under the full moon and when I was watching her about to be killed...I just snapped. I opened the gates and everything just came out at once and before I even knew what happened I was a wolf and I had ripped off the head of the one who tried to kill her.

Hramn asked another question. When you do go back to being human...will you go back?

No. If I go back they’ll kill me, just for being what I am, for something I never wanted to be to begin with.

You were born this way. The raven stated with pity. Don’t you want to see this princess again?

Max shook her head. I saw the way she looked at me, she’s afraid of me, just like everyone else.

I’m not. Hramn stated.

Not yet. Max retorted.

The raven shook his head. Wolves and ravens have always been friends and allies there is no reason for me to be afraid of you.

Then it is for her and I to never be together. Werewolves and vampires...isn’t our destiny to be enemies?

I wouldn’t know, until now I thought werewolves were extinct. The raven began to jump up and down then flew from Max’s back to a branch in front. But you can ask the Lady of the Wood! Look!

Max walked to the tree the raven sat on and looked at the small carving within a small hollow. It took the form of what Hramn said is a wolf and that by the carving taking this symbol the Lady is already aware of Max's presence and welcomes her to continue. If she was not then she would never find the carving and she would simply wonder around in circles unable to navigate until at last she gave up and was put back where she came from. It is a type of defense of nature to protect the location of her home from invaders and ill-intended. They were not far, the wolf's paw had been extended out, pointing in the direction they must go.

Nearing dawn, Max and Hramn at last left the confines of the woods and found themselves on a shoreline where further up was a small collection of houses decorated with numerous totem poles, boats and docks where ship both modern and traditional floated in the waters. The sounds of waters crashing as waves reached the shoreline were followed by the laughter of children playing. The wolf's head and ears lowered at the same time. She thought the witch lived alone in these woods, to know she resides in a village with people...Max was right to feel apprehensive, but then again people only see her as a wolf and by what the ravens had said this village was welcoming of all manner of beast. Hramn flew down the hill, followed slowly by the cautious wolf who progressively gained the attention of the village occupants.

Her pure white coat blended in with the snow, making it difficult for her to be noticed until she walked onto the wooden steps. Max expected parents to grab their children and hurry them into their homes, to draw weapons and go after her with spears or cross bows. But no one acted out of the ordinary, no one made the effort to change their day to day activity on the account of the wolf's presence. She was no being ignored, but she was not being feared it was...the most normal she has felt in a long time. Not a convict on the run, not a monster disguised as a human, she was being treated just as any other. Nevertheless her wariness did not diminish, but her apprehensiveness to entering the village was entirely gone.

Hramn landed on the top of a totem pole taller than the house that sat seemingly as an extension of the cliff side. Slowly Max followed, her steps silent even across the ages and squeaking planks weathered and beaten by age and winters past. Her raven companion called into the house as though the witch speaks as he and Max. The wolf did not know what to expect. The door opened and out came a small, frail old woman with lightly tanned skin, salt and peppered hair braided to the sides of her face with thin almond-shaped eyes. She was dressed in a blue coat with highlights of red and white, decorated with lines of fur on her shoulders. The woman greeted Hramn, rubbing the underside of the raven's neck while commenting how he continues to be quite a handsome bird. Max kept her tongue in place, wanting to critique the bird's perception of 'beauty' by human standards.

The old woman turned to the wolf, taking small steps toward her while the wolf attempted to keep still.

"The trees whisper of you, Maxilyn Lykaios." The elder woman spoke, "They told me of the aid you gave to a child lost and doomed to be claimed by nature. It is true strength to go against your nature and help those who would otherwise parish."

This isn't my nature. Max growled. This isn't what I really look like, I'm here--

"Because you wish to return to your human form, yes I know, but now is not the time. Come, you will find rest and warmth, food and comfort here, things I trust you have not had in a great while. You are safe here my child, those who hunt you will not find this place so easily."

Hramn nudged the wolf, a silent 'I told you so' then took flight into the house. The elder witch held the door open, though Max stayed in place, uncertain whether she could be this stranger's words. This apprehensiveness the woman understood, but it was unnecessary and the longer she stayed put the more heat that would be let out of the house. Max forced herself to stand, to walk forward, but still she would not go until the witch did first. She would not allow her back to anyone, not again, not like this. The witch sighed, entering her home and followed by the wolf who found a large pillow beside the fire with a blanket and a plate smoked meats and breads in front with a bowl of water beside. Hunger made itself known, growling loudly for others to hear, but Max did not care. She was too tired, too cold, to hungry too much of everything to care what came after.

She walked across the house that was far larger within than by outside appearances and laid down on the bed. Her inner animal gave way, uncivilized and inhuman, Max tore into the food, devouring it in a few bites. She wanted more, but when she began to notice that she was prepared to beg as a dog she forced herself to lay back down and drink water. Starved as she was, she would only make herself sick if her stomach was filled to the brink. The witch knew this, this is why she gave such small portions, had given such hospitality--she knew a great deal about Max...because of the trees? Max quickly fell asleep, comfortable she curled up into a ball and basked in the fire's warmth.

Hours went by and Hramn took it upon himself to awaken the sleeping wolf. He tried to call her name, then to flutter his wings in her face, but the third attempt was the most effective. Max shot up, running forward and knocking into a dresser after feeling a decent amount of fur being ripped off her tail. Hramn was up out of reach, laughing hysterically at the wolf who proceeded to flash a toothy growl when looking around and finding that their host was not present.

What time is it? Max asked, with a wide yawn.

Nearing noon. Its too quiet and I'm bored, but I can't open the door.

The wolf shook her body, stretching in a downward dog before sitting on her bum. So you woke me up just to let you out?

Well that and you started to whine so I thought maybe you were having a bad dream.

Max looked to him with curiosity. I don't remember what I was dreaming about, but if it was anything like it normally is then I'm glad you woke me up.

She went to the door and stood on her hind legs, grabbing the door with one paw then used her weight to push it open. Hramn zoomed out of the house, shooting up into the sky then diving back down with a few barrel rolls before straightening out and sharply turning left toward the sea. Show off. Max thought to herself, though she did not realize it was not to herself when Hramn came down with a swush commenting how there was no need to be jealous that he could fly and she could not. The wolf rolled her eyes, walking down the steps and going toward the beach where a lone woman, dressed in the same attire as the witch.

Ma'am, I was hoping we could speak--

The woman turned around, far younger than the elder she had spoken to earlier in the morning.

Oh, sorry I thought you were...Max looked at her eyes, finding they were the same as the witch and was confused as to whether this woman was a relative or somehow a younger clone. The witch... The wolf looked around. Wow I must be losing it.

"Do you often base your sanity on the reality before you?" The woman asked with a light smile.

Max tilted her head. No, but when I see a woman who looks thirty-years younger now than this morning it does raise a few questions whether or not I'm going crazy...or just need glasses.

Hramn glided nearby, but seemed to have no intention of landing or listening in.

“You seek my help to return you to your human form.” The Lady of the Wood stated, her gaze out into the freezing ocean.

Max stood behind her, watching her carefully for any sort of disfavorful movement. Hramn says she helps, that she can be trusted, but many of friend has said so before and this is where it has gotten her. She got sloppy, let them blindside her when she had been trained to know and respond better. Her complacency had her end up in this state; forced to rely on the help of an unknown witch in the middle of the wilderness. She must not allow herself to be fooled again, not by anyone.

Begrudgingly Max agreed.

The witch turned partly to the wolf, motioning for her to follow. They walked tangent down the shoreline, the ocean’s merciless winds freezing the very air they breath. The beach was nearly blackened by appearance, the moisture of water, snow and ice weighing down on the sands. Ice moved and cracked with each bash of wave, pushing it further up the shore. It was beautiful as it was terrifying, the blackened waters held many secrets and dangers unseen by the mixture of ice and winter’s darkness.

“You have traveled far to arrive here, but here is neither your beginning nor your end.” Riddled the witch, “Tell me where is it you are from daughter of the moon?”

Max thought sincerely about the question and found there was no true answer. She never stayed somewhere long, the Marines have had her on the move for nearly a decade and before...there is no before, not one that will acknowledge her existence. I’ve moved around too much to say I’m from anywhere: Georgia, North Carolina, California, Africa, Weatern Asia...I’ve lived all over.

“Where then we’re your shallow roots most recent?”

New York. I had an apartment there...a job. Max bitterly smiled. Friends.

“But you do not call it home? The place you feel safest at? Those you trust and find friendship with—do none of these satisfy your necessity to call a place a home?”

Home. Home is often said not to be a place, but a people, where one can truly be themselves with no fear of persecution or isolation. Where one finds happiness. How could she consider New York or anywhere home? Everywhere she went there was fear of safety, of discovery, none so much as her time on the Other Side. In the Marines, among people who thought of her as human, as an equal that is where she felt safest. There was something called home once, yes even she could say this, but he was gone, killed because she was too afraid of losing the safety those around.

An imagine of Kassandra appeared in her mind. The immortal woman standing at the window of her apartment, dressed in ivory for the night’s occasion. A glass of wine was in her hand, but tucked and held comfortably between her breasts. Her electric blue eyes, beautiful and mesmerizing looked off into the distance, the night time world of the concrete jungle. Her vampire eyes saw far and wide, from the smallest bird atop a traffic light, to the gay couple standing on the rooftop, hidden away from the judgement of the world as they cuddled and sipped hot tea under the blanket of stars. Strangely, Max remember this memory very clearly because this was what her definition of beauty was, of trust, safety; happiness. It was her definition.

There was a time I forgot what I am, why I had to hide away, but now...the people I called friends no doubt hunt me. The place I thought was safe was only a den of vipers and someone I cared afraid of me.

The witch continued to walk and because she was in front of Max the wolf did not see the empathy she expressed toward the fellow outcast. Max was certain Kassandra had returned to her father, had exposed her secret because in the end she had lied to the vampire when she asked earnestly for truth to be between them. She was a fool to think there could be anything lasting between them, Kassandra is a vampire, daughter of the Elder who exterminated an entire race. Max is...a werewolf, the creature children are told horror stories of that prowl the night looking to eat them. No doubt the Principessa grew up with such stories, considering her family.

I’m alone. I have no one to turn to, no one to help or teach me. I’m forced to bear something I never asked for to begin with!

“You cannot simply wish this away as if it were a bad dream. This is how you were born and yet you reject that which is apart of you.” The witch stopped at a large, fallen tree.

The wolf stopped, looking at her paws. She is the last of her kind and yet she possesses no knowledge of their history, their culture, their customs, she knows nothing of what it means to be a wolf. An outcast she had to hide away, had to reject this fate of hers because she was dealt an unfair hand. She knows nothing of this world she was born apart of and yet this world is doing all it can to kill her. It was unjust, unfair to force this upon her and no matter what she has done to avoid it, all is for naught, all is inevitable.

“Take this tree, strong as it was in life, it is never more stronger in death.”

Max looked at her skeptically, walking closer, she came to where the witch stood. Within the log was an entire array of grow, sprouts of trees beginning their lives by the death of the one that came before it. Though the world has brought it down still it continues and though it may never speak to its children they know of the sacrifice, of the way to continue without guidance. The wolf walked to the hollowed log, the beautiful growth was lushes and green even in the dead of winter. Max took a paw and stepped on one of the plants. Weak.

These plants, sheltered by the demise of their predecessor, will die and that sacrifice will be for naught. They are allowed to grow and prosper, but in doing so are protected and overpopulated where all get the same amount of nutrients they will not survive when their protector decays around them. Without reistence, without growing to conserve energy, to weather the harsh storms these plants are as complacent and docile as houseplants. Beautiful and weak.

The witch moves, her sound alerting Max, though ahe shuffled only a little to the otherwise of the fallen tree. Following her gaze, Max looked to the other side where a branch was broken, separated from the rest of the tree left alone. It was not lushes and green as it’s siblings, it was dark and brown, bark already growing as it’s roots sank deeper and deeper into the soil. Alone it prospered. Alone it grew strong, able to widthstand the coming winters that would use every bit of their force to bring it down. It would survive, alone in the forest, without a single tree to call friend or family.

“We are not meant to be alone my child. Not a single heartbeat in this world is without a pair. Though you are without your kin you have never been alone and just as this tree you maybe separated from the rest, you are nevertheless connected to them even if it is no longer. Even now your heart calls to another, to be accepted and loved.”

Loved? Max growled staring at the lone tree. I am not loved! I am feared! I am hated for something I never did for the sins of people I’ve never fucking met! The wolf snarled bearing her fangs at the witch.

Can you change me back or not! I don’t want to be a wolf! I want to go back to how things were! I want to go back before all this, before her seeing me, before meeting them before Alain dying! I just...Tears began to fall. I just wanted to be normal.

The witch looked upon this wolf, this child of nature with neither pity nor disgust.

She walked toward the wolf, kneeling to the shaking animal she placed her hand on the head, rubbing it gently, “If you were to change the past, you would have only succeeded in living a life full of regret.”

Max looked up to the witch.

“The path back will never be the same and all you would have done is waste away your life chasing a phantom of the past.”

If Alain would not have died she never would have left the base. If Alain has not died, she would have married Amanda, would have built a career and a life within the Marines. She would have been happy like that. Alain would have proposed to his girlfriend, would have gotten married, had children. They would be together always, never apart. She would never have been revealed to be a wolf, would never have known about the other side. Max would have had the normal life she wanted, oblivious to a war fought in the shadows. There would be no vampires or casters, no werewolves hunted to extinction, just the Marines, just her friends, her family, her people. The wolf whined, thinking about what would have been. She never would have moved to New York, have gotten a job at Eclipse and most certainly her and Kassandra never would have crossed paths.

Her life...if Alain had not died she would be hiding her nature of the rest of her life. Shamed, afraid constantly of the judgement of those around her she would have lived with her own fears rotting her from the inside with doubt. this very moment there is no fear of discovery, no fear of hiding because she has already been revealed and it was on her terms, her choice. Now all she had to do was run, no more hiding, no more holding back, she was freer now than ever before.

"Our hunters will soon depart to check on snares. I would like you to join them. Learn about the land on which you stand and return to my home when you have finished."

Are you sure your hunters won't mind a wild animal being with them?

A smile came across the witch's face as she stood, "If I had deemed you to be a danger, you never would have found this village. Besides...”

Hramn glided down, landing on the witch’s arm.

“Our feather-ly friend here is quite popular among the villagers.”

Max she had no will to object to going with the hunters and from the moment she arrived the witch has spoken in a manner meant to help the wolf understand that which she refuses to hear from others. She obeyed, believing this woman, though unaware in her motivations, did not mean her harm. It is as Hramn said, she helps all animals...Max is just another in the long list the witch has aided. The raven waited for the witch to finish rubbing the under of his neck before flying off, guiding Max to where the hunters would gather. She followed slowly down the beach, the witch allowed to be behind her, minding her own business as she reached into the log her hand glowing with tinkling lights that allowed the plant Max had stepped onto to be brought back to health. The wolf looked down the beach, realizing the waves had taken their footprints, it was indeed true what the witch had said. No matter how hard one tired--no one could go back the same way they came. The Marine huffed, talk about a life lesson.

Thru the village Max walked, arriving at a small group of hunters, collected together on the outskirts of the village. They awaited the one the Elder would send, un-expecting it to be the wolf seen earlier, but nonetheless un-surprised and unaffected by the animal's presence. Once she had arrived, the hunters divided into groups of two, going to different sections of the village where each would search and check for the different traps. Their village was one of thirty-four and no more, each person had a job to fulfill, a duty to carry out whether it helped the village, each other, or a neighbor none were allowed to know hardship if luck and skill did not favor them that year. In times past, winter hunting and trapping was often avoided, simply for the fact it was unnecessary, however three winters ago saw a change in this.

A particularly strong storm has an aged tree fall and collapse over one of the village's storage huts during a night. When the village discovered this it was already too late and much of the food and supplies were unable to be salvaged. In the dead of winter there was no other alternative than to seek work to pay for food in one of the larger towns and even cities. Therefore, it was decided that during the winter, as a precaution there would be light finishing and trapping, limits were placed to ensure that there would be no over-hunting and they have fair well because of it. Here, in this wilderness, there was noting left to waste. The smallest squirrel could provide the fur to create a pouch to hold a tool, or to become a boot for one of the dogs. Meat would be placed in a stew to warm the body and soul of a weary traveler. Bone can be manipulated to become all manner of tools from sewing needles to fishing hooks. Nothing was left to waste.

Following two younger hunters, the beards on one's face was patchy and thin, giving into the notion his was a young kid just growing into manhood while the other seemed to share is face though much older. They were likely siblings, given the banter the older one was a responsible member of the village, using his youth to aid anyone and everyone he could, while the younger was rebellious, eager to leave their home and go out into the world and travel across the seas. Max enjoyed watching them, it reminded her of her own family. She never thought to hard about those she left behind in Georgia because if she was to be honest she did not run from them, she was kicked out, for a reason entirely unrelated to the fact she is a werewolf.

Following behind their trail in the snow, there was no difficultly in navigating the woods now that the snow had ceased for a time. It was beautiful and serene, nearly fanatical in how the snow was undisturbed for miles, the trees decorated in a way that it appeared to be stripped by the falling white. One hunter stopped, while another headed off further up. Max looked to the older brother's who was closet, he took from a snare a small white rabbit. She had never seen a snare in real life and was interested in how it worked. The man noticed the wolf's curiosity and shifted to the side to allow her to have full view and as she reset the trap he explained piece by piece. Max was unsure if he was aware that she understood him, but he seemed to carry on has though he were talking to any other person.

The snare was set up at the base of a tree, sticks were placed and manipulated to create a funnel where beyond the wire trap was bait. The unsuspecting prey would see the bait and the only way to access it was down the funnel where they would go thru the loop--the hunter gestured his hand going thru the wire. When the prey attempted to pull free--he pulled hard and fast, mimicking the reaction of a panicking animal. The wire would tighten and either suffocate the animal or break its neck. He reset the trap, adding more bait and before he placed the rabbit in his pouch he gently placed it on the ground, lowered his head and mumbled something in words Max did not understand. She only assumed it was a prayer for the animal.

Looking back to Max the hunter smiled, "Shall we?"

The wolf nodded, following him with a wagging tail. She put her nose up to the pouch, eager to have rabbit stew. The hunter laughed, playfully pushing Max away as he followed the tracks of his brother. She acted more like a pet than a wild animal, perhaps she was a domesticated wolf from another village? Knowing the Elder he would not be surprised if the wolf was somehow a friend of her considering she came with Hramn. Max followed beside the hunter coming up to his younger brother who finished checking an empty trap. He has a better time with fishing than hunting. A nose grabbed Max's attention, her ears went up as her head snapped toward a tree nearby. The brother noticed this and silenced themselves. She heard something, a heartbeat nearby, but she could not distinguish what it belonged to only that it was increasing in rate.

The younger brother took point, drawing out his rifle, he went in front, followed by Max and then his elder. The wolf was cautious, unaware of what it was that had alerted her, but she knew not to be careless. She went beside the younger brother her shoulders and ears relaxed, alert to any and all danger. The heartbeat was louder now, moving among the thickened bushes in front of them. None could see what it was until--"Bear!" Too late the beast ran from its concealment, a large male Grizzly Bear made a break straight at the younger brother. Max reacted, running into the bear she knocked him off course and into a tree. Run! She thought aloud, forgetting again she was a wolf.

Hramn! She yelled, coming between the bear and the brothers. The raven zoomed down, circling the bear's head and drawing its attention. They all made a run for it, Max faster than the humans she could have easily left them behind, but another shout at her stop. The elder brother had tripped, his leg hitting a concealed branch and a loud *snap* was easily understood to be a breaking of bone. The younger brother immanently stopped, meaning to turn around, but he was told to leave, as the bear charged again, his teeth open for an easy meal--Max jumped over the man, colliding with the bear, her strength keeping him from advancing. The bear was larger than her, using his powerful hind legs he began to push at her swiping his paws and snapping his large crushing jaws.

The bear got his jaw around Max's shoulder and lifted her up, throwing her to the side and into a tree. She yelped. The younger brother managed to stand his sibling up, but he did not have a reach of his rifle to aim--the older did. He lifted his gun, firing a round, but only grazing the grizzly's shoulder. Still the bear charged--a force in the form of the white wolf plowed into his side pushing him into and pinning him against a tree. Max yelled in triumph. Try and grab me now mother fucker! She pushed hard, hard enough to hear the snap and crack of the tree by the pressure by the bear's body and her force. The bear put his shoulder against the tree and pushed back, creating a space between them he moved back and was freed. Max jumped back, then ran quickly to come between the bear and the humans. The bear roared, standing on his hind legs towering over the wolf he roared. Dropping back down he advanced, his anger and bloodlust apparent as he sought to make a meal out of any who crossed his path. In response Max snarled, snapping her fangs she and he moved together, though he was powerful, she was far more nimble--jumping from side to side, one tree onto his back she clasped around his shoulder locking her jaw as he jumped around trying to shake her.

The Grizzly rammed his sides into the tree, jumped and eventually stood meaning to drop onto the ground and crush her, Max released and lept off, taking a piece of his shoulder with her. Again he roared, standing on his hind legs he stepped forward--Max inhaled, her howl sent outward causing the trees to shutter and shake. The Grizzly was dazed for a moment, he dropped to all four paws and shook his head of the sound that was nearly deafening to him. His next sound was a growl, lower and more submissive than before, still he charge.


Max dropped to her stomach, numerous bullets were fired into the bear, having him drop and slid until he and the wolf were nose to nose. The wolf looked back and saw the brothers with smoking barrels, their chambers empties of all ammunition until there was no sound, but the clicking of their triggers. Relieved Max stood, nudging the bear with her paw, she heard the last beat of his heart until only silence filled his chest. She went to the brothers, the elder was already creating a splint while the other stared in disbelief at the size of the animal they brought down. If the wolf had not been here they would have been killed, his brother would have died. If the Elder had not sent the wolf to accompany them they would never return to the village.

Max! Called Hramn as he flew with the company of the other four hunters. All stared in disbelief at the animal they saw, at how the two brothers and a wolf managed to bring this beast down alone and still they live. The raven glided to the wolf, landing on a branch beside her he looked down at the reddening of her coat. Are you alright?

Max nodded, glancing back at her shoulder. No worries, it'll heal by tomorrow.

Hramn looked closer. Maybe the Lady can heal it faster? Being mauled by a bear probably isn't a good feeling.

With a shaking head, I’m in a bit...well actually a lot of pain. I don’t think I can walk back.

With a few caws, the villagers' attention was brought to Max who had at last been noticed to be injured. A litter was made to bring back the two injured, an easy lift seeing as Max was not incredibly heavy. It was dark now, the injured brother had his leg set and the healing would be done in a matter of days by the efforts of the Elder. Max was far less in need of aid, tended to last and once everyone had left the witch’s home. The wolf sat silently as a youthful woman, with deep black hair kneeled at her side, tending to the deep bite inflicted by the bear.

“Thank you.”

For what? The wolf asked of the witch who seemed to reverse in age as a day’s time past.

“Saving Ko and his brother. They would not have survived if not for you.”

Max sighed. You expected me to run away?

“I expected you to use it as a means of bargain for my help.” The young woman admitted, “It is what the werewolf previous to you had done, so long ago.”

Then forgive me of not meeting your expectations of werewolves being garbage people. Max lowered her head to rest on her paws. I wasn’t raised to behave like an animal. I have the decency to help someone when they need it without the demand for reward.

Finished with her careful and progressive tending the red that painted the wolf’s fur was gone, returned to its original purity. The witch put her rag on the side of the bucket filled with dirtied water. She rose, taking the bucket and placing it to the side of the door for later disposing. She dried her hands and stood at a large book, looking over the pages which she thought would never be opened and turned again.

Besides. Max stared into the fire. I already know you can’t help me.

“Supernaturals are born with a touch of magic, some more than others. This magic is unique to each race, but for has been far too long for me. I do not even know where to begin. I myself am afflicted with the inability to control my body as you have seen.” The witch said sadly, her hand grazing the rough paper of her book, “Truly I am sorry, my child. All I may do is over you shelter while you remain here. If you seek to continue your journey elsewhere at the very least I can create a portal to send you off.”

The wolf yawned nonchalantly. It’s been a long day. Let’s talk about it more tomorrow.

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