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Chapter 3

Like the story of Naravi, the shadow warrior. Naravi was a young carpenter who lived in an isolated town in the mountains. One day his town was raided by a band of violent maunders, Naravi was in the forest at the time gathering wood. As he turned to go home a huge mountain lioness leapt in front of him,

"Stay here my brother." said the lioness; Naravi was so stunned he just stared at the lioness.

"What are you?" he finally managed to say.

"I'm your protector, I was sent to you because you are to do great things and I must see that you live long enough to complete them."

"Great things?"

"Yes brother, you were chosen by fate."

"You lie; I am no different from any other man. I will never be great. Besides, I don't want to be chosen by fate I just want to have a quiet, simple life."

"We cannot always choose our future, you need to remember that. You will be great, you can either choose to embrace your fate and reject it but either way it will happen."

"No, I don't want to leave my family and town. I will live my life here like my father and his father."

"And if your family and town are gone, what then?"

"Then I will also be gone."

"And if you're not?"

"What indeed, I will cross that bridge when I come to it."

"It is here now." The lioness said and disappeared into the woods. Naravi shook his head, confused and a little disturbed, and gathered the wood he had collected. He strolled through the forest admiring the gorgeous trees, so strong and straight.

As Naravi neared the town he began to smell smoke, he quickened his pace and soon he reached the crest of the hill that looked down on his town. When he looked

Down, towards his home his cried out and fell to his knees, his town had been burned to the ground and even from the hill he could see the pile of bodies pilled in the town square.

Naravi stayed there at the crest of the hill for days mourning, he could not bring himself to go down into the town he loved. He knew he would not be able to stand the sight of his friends and families bodies pilled disrespectfully in the open, picked over by vultures.

"And if your family and town are gone, what then?" the lioness' voice echoed in his head as he looked out. What now? He had lost everyone he knew and loved in one day, he felt as if his heart and soul had been ripped out and his chest stuffed with cotton. How could he live like this? Why live at all…the thought passed through his mind and he followed it. He got up and walked forward like a sleep walker. He plodded through the forest he had admired a few days before without sparing it a glance, soon he came to the place he was looking for. It was the ravine.

Naravi stood at the edge of the ravine, ready to fall, to float into the oblivion of the eternal sleep. The lioness was wrong, he thought, I will die here, now; I will never be great, all I was destined to be was cursed. Naravi closed his eyes and took a step forward, just as he was ready to jump something hurdled into him and knocked him backwards, he hit his head and passed out.

When he woke he was in a huge bed with a canopy hanging over his head and a lioness curled up by his feet.

"Good morning brother," The lioness said. Naravi closed his eyes and tried to drown out all the memiories that came crashing into his head.

"Why didn't you let me die?" He moaned.

"You have a destiny to complete, death is not ready for you yet." Replied the Lioness. He groaned and covered his eyes.

"I can't do this!" He cried.

"Alone you cannot, but together we can." said the lioness. Naravi still doubted the lioness but he knew he couldn't be free of her. But over time, he realized she was right and they became the best of friends.

The story goes on to tell how Naravi falls in love with the princess of the country and marries her becoming prince. He later becomes king and changes his country and sets everything to right in his beloved country. He ended up living a long, happy life and was eternally grateful to the lioness for saving him.

There was also the story of Marvene who instead of dying choose to become a panther and guard her lover until he too died. I have never heard of a wolf being a guardian but I don't see why they wouldn't make good guardians, the only problem with this theory is why would I have a protector? Maybe my wolf is here to protect Ranulf, which would make some more sense because he is probably very important. Why else would the men who captured us be looking for him? I wonder if Ranulf knew he had a guardian?

If Ranulf doesn't get better soon we're going to be in a lot of trouble. We need to get away from here even if it's just a day or two's walk away, we just can't be here when the men get back. I tried thinking of ways to move him but there was nothing I could do- I was strong but not strong enough to carry him away from here and there were no horses around. Maybe he could ride on the wolf, I joked to myself, it was such a funny picture I couldn't help laughing out loud,

"What?" asked Ranulf, looking up at me.

"I was just thinking of something funny." I answered.

"Likely story, so is there anything to eat? I'm starving."

"Yes, here," I said handing him a bowl of some stew I had made in the morning, "So what do you think they wanted?" I asked.

"Who?" Ranulf said looking up innocently.

"The men who attacked us!" I said impatiently.

"Oh, I don't know."

"I think they were looking for you. I mean it was pretty obvious, especially when you got worried I was going to tell them the truth, whatever that is." I accused. Ranulf just continue eating his stew and didn't answer.

"So what did you do? Did you kill someone? Or steal something?" I asked curiously.

"I've killed many people but I did nothing wrong."

"Okay, that makes a lot of sense!" I said impatiently, "Seriously Ranulf, why are they looking for you?"

"They were looking for both of us."

"Then why did they believe me when I said I ran away with you to get married?"

"They weren't looking for you just to take you back to your master."

"I'm so confused! They were looking for both of us yet somehow they believed me when I said we were running away to get married? What did they expect me to say? Why are they looking for me?"

"I think you've asked enough questions today, if you don't mind I'm going to get some more sleep. I want to leave this place tomorrow." I sighed and decided to get some sleep myself. I would let it go this time but I would find out what was going on, I decided to bother him about it tomorrow when we were traveling.

I tried to sleep for about an hour but it was hopeless, I was so used to working all day I couldn't make myself sleep in the daylight. I felt like I would go insane if I didn't move or do something so I went exploring again. This time I was looking for clothes, I thought I mine as well find some that we can take with us when we go because who knows when I'll have money to buy new clothes.

I ended up finding more clothes then I hoped to, I discovered a room full of all the treasure the men had stolen. There were piles and piles of beautiful clothing and random pieces of furniture. I picked out a beautiful blue dress and a pair of sturdy leather pants, a loose shirt, and a pair of boots. I changed into the pants and the loose shirt and went back out to the main room. I got Ranulf a few more shirts since his were ripped and stained with blood. I put the other clothes into my pack and went through everything else in both packs to make sure we had everything we needed. Ranulf was still asleep so I decided to have a bath, partly because it would take up a lot of time but mostly because I hadn't had a real bath in years. When I was a slave you pretty much wiped off your body with a wet rag, and you where lucky to get to do that much, so a real bath would be a luxury.

I had seen a copper bathtub in one of the rooms so I set out to find it. Then I gathered fire wood and brought buckets of water in from outside to heat over the fire. It was at least an hour before my bath was ready but it was worth it to be able to soak in the hot water, washing away what felt like years of dirt and grime.

We left early the next morning, Ranulf was still weak but we both agreed it would be to get as far from the caves as possible. We rested often but made pretty good time. Ranulf said there was a city about fifteen miles away and so we went as fast as we could, hoping we could get there before dusk.

The city was huge compared my small town; it had huge walls that circled the city, I wondered if the walls were built to keep invaders out, or to keep the people in. As we walked through the streets I gazed around in wonder at all the building and colors. There was hardly anything familiar to me there, I was frightened and stayed close to Ranulf. He seemed perfectly comfortable and at ease, well, until the riot broke out.

We were walking through the market and we heard shouting, everyone looked around to see what was going on. It was a young man, he was screaming at the tops of his lungs about sorcery and demons while pointing at a women standing on a scaffold.

"What's going on?" I asked Ranulf quietly.

"She's being accused of cursing people in the city; she probably just refused to sell someone something, so they accused her."

"That's horrible!"

"Yes, it is. Let's get out of here before things get any worse, I would hate to be out on the street when the fights break out!"

"Fights?" I asked fearfully.

"Yes, this type of thing usually leads to fights and riots. Come, we need to get inside." Ranulf grabbed my hand and pulled me though the crowd but we made hardly any progress because all the streets were jammed with people. You could feel the tension in the air and taste the hatred, and then all hell broke loose. It was as if a dam of emotions broke loose at once, everyone around us started shout, punching, and kicking everyone around them. There didn't seem to be any sides, it was every man against everyone around him.

I was able to stay close to Ranulf for a time, but in the end I lost him and was swept along with the crowd. I tried to fend off the punches thrown at me but I wasn't very successful, I felt like everyone had picked me out as an easy target for their anger. I fought my way against the flow of people, trying to get out of the riot and finally I managed to break free. I tumbled into an isolated alley and collapsed on the ground; I ached all over and was so scared I could hardly think. All that I knew was that Ranulf, my guide and protector, was gone and I was all alone in a strange, violent city. I had no clue what to do or where to go.

I stayed awake all night hoping to see Ranulf walk into the alley looking for me but he never came, which shouldn't have surprised me, yet I couldn't help hoping to see him. I was careful to keep one of the knives I had stolen from the cave close by me, but other than that I had nothing to comfort me. In the morning I decided to get out of the alley and wander the city, I hoped I would find Ranulf; but part of me was afraid I would find him lying dead in the gutter somewhere. What if he had been hurt or killed in the riot? What would I do then? Where would I go?

I looked for him all day but I didn't see him or anything that would lead me to him. I spent another night in an alley, but right before dawn I was woken up by a scream. I sat up and pulled out my knife, ready for a fight. Something was moving toward me, at first I thought it was someone crawling but I took a closer look I realized it was an animal, it was my wolf. I put my knife away and ran towards it, I was so happy to see something familiar that I actually hugged it! I thought if the wolf was here then Ranulf had to be near, it was Ranulf's protector after all.

"I'm so glad you're here!" I whispered to it. It licked my face; I winced as its tongue touched my bruised face. My wolf looked at me expectantly, I just stared back- what now? I thought, I looked around but Ranulf was no where in sight.

"Where is he?" I whispered to my wolf. It trotted past me and nudged my pack, I followed him and put on my pack. My wolf took my hand gently in his mouth, like in my dream, and led me out of the city and into the night. When we finally stopped I fell down exhausted, and was asleep before I could even take my pack off.

In the night, I had traveled deep into the woods with my wolf, I was surprised how far we had gotten in such a short time. When I woke my wolf was sitting nearby watching me, I smiled at it and got some food out of my pack and shared it with him. I was expecting him to talk to any minute but he didn't, he just sat there panting and looking at me with his gorgeous icy blue eyes.

Later on, around noon I was pilling more wood on the fire when I heard a noise. I looked up to see a woman and four wolves enter the clearing. I was frightened and startled; I stood up and pulled out my knife; even though I didn't know how to use it, my knife made me feel less helpless. I hoped I looked dangerous with it.

"We mean you no harm." Said the woman, I looked at her warily and waited for something to happen. My wolf came and rubbed its head against my hip then trotted towards the newcomers. I watch in amazement as my wolf greeted the others happily and licked the woman's hand, my wolf knew them somehow. This was getting stranger and stranger, what was I doing in the woods with a wolf as a companion? And now I was meeting another woman with a bunch of wolves…maybe I was dreaming again.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"We are here to help you save Ranulf."

"What? You know Ranulf?" I tried to calm myself but it was hard with a million questions bouncing around in my head. Who was this woman? What happened to Ranulf? Why did she need me to save him? Was he alright? Why had the woman said 'we' when she was alone except for the wolves? Where the other wolves her protectors? How did my wolf know her? Was I losing my mind?

"We are Ranulf's brothers and sisters, he has been captured and we are here to help you save him."

"Why me? What can I possibly do?" What makes her think that I would be any use at all? I know nothing of war, fighting, or saving people.

"He chose you, he saved you. Now you must save him." What? This woman makes no sense! What if I couldn't him? And how did she know he had saved me? But none of this really mattered- if Ranulf was in trouble I did owe it to him to help him. I decided I would stop questioning the woman and try to help- there would be plenty of time of questions later, I hoped.

"What do I have to do?" I asked the woman after taking a deep breath.

"Come with us, we will take you to where he is. Then we will talk and decide what must be done." I nodded and quickly put everything into my pack.

As soon as I was done packing up we left, we went deeper and deeper into the woods until I had become completely lost. I was hoping the woman knew where we were going because I doubted I could ever find my way out.

"How much longer?" I asked as the sky began to darken.

"We still have a few miles until we stop for the night." She replied. I sighed and shifted my pack; my back was aching from carrying it all day and all I wanted was to lie down and fall asleep. I felt weaker than usual because my whole body was battered and bruised from the riot. I must have looked like a mess- I could feel that my lip was swollen, I had a painful black eye, and a swallow cut on my left cheekbone.

Finally, we stopped; it took all my control not to fall asleep immediately. I waited patiently for the woman to sit down,

"Go to sleep, tomorrow we will talk." She said. I said goodnight then lay down next to my wolf and fell asleep. I probably should have been more alert, but for some reason I felt safe and wasn't afraid of this woman and her wolves.

My world has been completely turned up-side-down once again. I am so overwhelmed I do not know what to tell you first, it is amazing how one moment the world seems one way and the next you see that everything you thought you knew was wrong.

I woke up the next morning to find the woman gone; it was just me and all the wolves. If I was a normal girl I would have been scared to death but I felt more comfortable with the wolves then with the woman. It seem more natural, just the wolves and I. I got out some food for myself and shared it with my wolf and the woman's wolves.

When I was done eating I looked around the clearing looking for a stream where I could wash my face and teeth, I saw one not far away and went to it. The weather was finally warming so I could wash my face without my lips turning blue and my hands shaking. I took my time, hoping the woman would be back when I got done so we could go help Ranulf, I was getting really restless.

When I was done washing the woman still was not back so I sat down and started to daydream, I started thinking about everything that had happened to me since I had escaped. In the back of my mind there was a theory or idea that kept trying to get free but it was just too abstract for me to comprehend. It was like trying to catch the wind, it felt so close but every time you tried to grasp it, it would escape. Then I started thinking about the wolves, why had I been followed by wolves, ever since I had escaped? First there was the wolf in the city, my wolf following us and in my dreams, then it rescued me in the city, and now there was the woman's wolves. It seemed strange to me, super stranger. The woman had said 'we are Ranulf's brothers and sisters did she mean the wolves too?

"Are you ready?" I started back to reality and looked up to see the woman.

"Yes." I answered and scrambled to my feet.

"Good, we will go. Bring your things." I nodded and picked up my pack. We started walking again but in an hour or two we came to a mountain and stopped.

"He is inside." said the woman.

"How will we get him?"

"You will lead us in." I was stunned, I would lead them? Why wouldn't the woman lead us? Were they using me as bait?

"Me?" I squeaked.

"Yes." She answered, I just stared at her but she gazed back, unmoving. I figured she had no other information to share with me so I gulped and put down my pack. I pulled my small sword out of my pack and strapped it to my belt, hoping I would be able to manage it if I needed to.

"Do you have any idea where he is in the mountain?" I asked.

"We will follow his scent." This is ridiculous! I thought.

"Ummm, okay. Do you think we should wait 'til night to get him?"

"No, now is best." I sighed, I was probably going to get myself killed.

"Alright, let's go then."

"We will show you the entrance." She said. I nodded and made sure all my weapons were where I could easily reach them, not that it really mattered since I was just as likely to cut myself than the enemy. I felt like this was the end for me, I knew I could not fight well and who knew what or who was inside the mountain. I looked back to see where the woman was, she was standing a few steps behind me. I fixed my sword and looked back again; in the woman's place was a wolf. I almost screamed, the woman had just turned into a wolf when I wasn't looking- who does that? I thought angrily, then laughed at myself. I would think something like that, no something like how is this really happening.

"Can all of you do that?" I whispered, I was surprised I could be curious at a time like this. The woman/wolf nodded, and then trotted off towards the mountain. I shrugged and followed, there was nothing else I could do; I figured I would think about what happened later, if I was still alive. I tried to forget the fact that a woman had just become a wolf and concentrate on staying alive and saving my friend. Could Ranulf turn into a wolf too? I wondered, that would explain his lack of social skills because I'm sure wolves don't interact like we do…hmm interesting.

I followed the woman/wolf into a thicket on the side of the mountain and crawled inside the small tunnel that was underneath. It opened into a large passageway that went steadily downward, we quietly snuck farther down until we heard voices. I dropped on stomach and crawled forward, looking around the corner so see who and how many people where there.

"Which way is he?" I asked when I crawled back to where the wolves waited.

"Down the second to passage to the left." I nodded, I was beyond surprise- I just hoped she was right. A woman just turned into a wolf, it was not a big deal that she could talk too.

"There are six men, we need to get past them to get to the passage." I said.

"Go, distract them. We will follow." I gulped and shifted my sword so it was hidden from view but where I could get it easily and stepped out into the large chamber.

"Who is this?" one of the men noticed me right away, I smiled and walked towards them. I tried to act like I belonged there.

"Are you lost honey?" said another one of the men with false courtesy; I smiled and said in the sweetest tone I could manage.

"I was sent to get the food for the prisoner but I have lost my way, which way is the prisoner?" The men started to laugh and one grabbed me around the waist. I tried to slip away, I was afraid he would feel my sword.

"The prisoner can wait, stay with us a while." I smiled and pretended to be trying to decide what to do.

"Well, that does sound nice… but I can't sir, I'm sorry but I need to tend to the prisoner." The men where had begun to crowd around me, preventing me from leaving even if I had tried. I was starting to get nervous, were the wolves just going to leave me here?

As if they heard my thoughts, the wolves came storming out from the corner and charged the men. I pulled out my knife and stabbed at the man closest to me. In the confusion of the fighting I saw one of the wolves turn half human while fighting one of the men, it was the most frightening thing I have ever seen. The wolf leaped at the man and while she was still in the air her body turned human. She was naked but some parts of her body were still covered with hair and her teeth were still long fangs. She ripped out the man's throat and was completely wolf when she hit the ground. So ridiculous!

In mere minutes all men where dead and the wolves and I stood bloody and breathing hard. After we caught our breathe we jogged down the passage where they said Ranulf was. We met no one else until we got to the room where Ranulf was being held.

He was lying completely still in the middle of the room, his feet where manacled to a pole. The ground around him was splattered with blood, I was afraid we were too late but when I looked closer I saw Ranulf's chest move as he slowly breathed.

When we first entered the room no one was there so I boldly stepped out into the open and walked towards Ranulf. Then I heard a growl, I looked behind me to see a huge man lunging at me with a broadsword. My wolf leaped at him but the man slashed at him and my wolf fell to the ground; I screamed angrily and charged the man. There was a flash of light and I felt myself fly backwards and hit something hard.

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