Flynn’s eyes widened, he looked at Aaron without moving. Aaron stood still with his hands on the hilt of his sword. He couldn’t see anything yet.
As they stood there, a shadow appeared behind Flynn and it grew bigger and bigger.
Aaron now saw the same red eyes that he saw in the woods. They were coming towards him.
Without wasting any time, he pulled out his sword and signaled Flynn to remain still. The growling of the creature was horrifying. The shadow under the moonlight now began to become clearer. It was a large wolf-like creature with black fur and fangs and it walked on two legs upright. Aaron had never imagined such a creature even in his worst nightmares.
The creature made a grunt as he stood right behind Flynn.
The beast picked up Flynn with no effort at all and threw him aside, as if he was feather. Flynn fell a few yards away and landed on the ground with a cry. The beast was coming for Aaron now.
Aaron forgot all about the sword in his hands and he stepped back from the wolf creature as it advanced towards him menacingly.
“Run, Aaron” he heard Zack’s voice from behind the creature suddenly. The creature gave out a cry and fell on its knees momentarily. Zack had struck the beast from behind. It then got up quickly and pounced on Zack and attacked him. Zack was down now and hurt badly. He was lying in a pool of blood. Zack was clearly no match for the creature’s strength.
The creature now turned his attention back to Aaron. It jumped in front of him even before he could gather his strength to run.
The glowing red eyes came closer to Aaron and now he could see the beast clearly. It had a face like a wolf but disfigured and horrifying. It’s teeth had grown in every direction and looked as sharp as knives. The creature’s mouth was foaming and Aaron could smell blood.
Aaron flinched as he felt a sharp pain on his left arm. He realized that the beast had clawed him in the dark. Without a thought, he thrust his sword into the chest of the beast with all his strength. The beast moaned loudly and it fell to the ground. Aaron’s sword had pierced it through the heart.
Aaron held his arm to prevent blood gushing out from his wound. Flynn came running towards him and said “Are you all right? Let me see that”.
Flynn pulled out a piece of cloth from of his pocket and tied it to Aaron’s arm to stop the bleeding.
Aaron saw that Flynn’s forehead was bleeding too.
“You are hurt too” Aaron said.
They heard another howl.
“Quick we have to hide.” said Flynn looking terrified.
“Let’s take your father inside” said Aaron as he got up to see if Zack was alright.
“Father?! What happened to father?” Flynn had not seen Zack coming out and attacking the wolf creature.
“He was trying to save me” said Aaron.
They found Zack unconscious under a tree, nearby. His legs were badly hurt. Flynn couldn’t believe his eyes. “Oh my god! What happened to him?” he said.
Aaron and Flynn carried Zack inside the shop. The workers inside the shop were scared of the wolf and were hiding in a corner. As they saw Zack’s condition, they immediately helped Aaron and Flynn bring him inside.
Flynn closed the doors immediately. They waited inside the shop for some time. Flynn sat next to his father and Aaron looked out the window to keep a watch. They heard many howls at a distance. It felt like the creatures were calling out to each other.
“Close all the windows quickly and put out all the lights” Flynn said to the workers. “The dead beast is outside, the others might come looking for it” he added.
They sat in the dark making no sound at all. They could now hear many screams outside. The villagers were running away and they could hear many growls. After a while, the screams and the growls died down. But they sat inside and waited. After a long time, Aaron carefully opened a window and looked outside.
“They are gone” he said.
Flynn also came to check, he peeped out of the window. Zack was still unconscious and lying on the floor.
Flynn and Aaron came out slowly while the men attended to Zack. A few people were gathered in front of a shop. Some was cursing the Devil and some were calling names of Gods.
The Wolves were gone but they had caused a lot of damage. Most of the shops were rundown or broken. But thankfully, not many villagers were hurt. Aaron wondered why these monsters came to the village.
“What were those things? Why did they come here? Billy was right then.” Flynn said, as he looked around.
They heard some yelling, a small group of people were gathered at a distance. Aaron and Flynn rushed towards them. One of the shop keepers was telling everybody that the wolves had talked to him. He looked terrified.
“They asked for the boy. I didn’t know that they meant.” The shopkeeper looked scared, he was sweating. “ I couldn’t say anything. Then they broke my shop.” He stared to sob and the others consoled him.
Aaron was not comfortable. He wanted to get away from the crowd.
“I will check for other casualties. You look after your father.” Aaron told Flynn.
Aaron ran towards the shops in the outer circle of the market place. Most of these shops were empty and untouched. These shopkeepers had left long back.
He walked through the row of shops searching if anybody was still inside or trapped. He spotted a small light in the corner. He realized that it was coming from the book store.
Without thinking much, he ran towards the book shop. He heard a faint voice coming from within the shop. He rushed inside and saw the lady of the shop lying in a pool of blood. Aaron knelt near her and tried to keep her awake.
“Can you hear me? I am here to help. I will take you to the village. You will be fine” Aaron said in one breath.
The lady opened her eyes slowly and held Aaron’s hand.
“They will come again! You should not be here” she whispered.
“Are you talking about the wolves? What do you know about them?” Aaron asked.
“They were sent by the Dark One, they are turned evil by the magic, very dark magic. They were looking for you” she said.
“Me?!” Aaron jumped back a little. “What? But Why?” Aaron felt a knot forming in his stomach.
“Why are they looking for me?!” Aaron asked again, holding her hands tight.
“There was a searcher here, he was looking for you. It came after you had left. He looked inside my head and knew that you were here.”
She took a deep breath. She had lost a lot of blood. With a trembling voice, she said “I tried to stop the searcher but he was very powerful, I couldn’t, I couldn’t….” she was not able to speak anymore. Aaron could see the pain in her eyes now.
Aaron had no idea what the lady was talking about. As he sat there, she was taking her last few breaths.
“What is a searcher? And who is the Dark One?” He asked.
But no sound came from the lady anymore. She did not move or speak again. She was dead. Aaron dropped her hand to her sides and slowly got up. He walked out of the shop and looked back for the last time. To his surprise the whole shop vanished in front of his eyes like there was nothing there before. Aaron rubbed his eyes in surprise, ’How was that possible?’ he thought.
“Aaron! Where are you?” came Flynn’s voice from nearby.
“I am here” Aaron ran towards Flynn’s voice.
“Where were you? I thought I had lost you” Flynn said in a worried tone.
“I was just…” Aaron held his tongue for a moment. He was not ready to tell Flynn what had just happened. He couldn’t believe it himself.
Flynn was in a hurry.
“Come let’s check on father!” he ran towards his shop and Aaron followed him.
Everyone had left the market by now. It was dead silent. The workers in Zack’s shop had left as well.
Zack was still unconscious.
“Bring some water! We will try to wake him up” Aaron told Flynn who was kneeling next to him.
Flynn went quickly into a smaller room and came back with a glass of water. They sprinkled some water on Zack’s face and he woke up with a jerk. He mumbled something and tried to kick his legs but Flynn asked him to remain calm. After a few seconds Zack realized his left leg was hurting and he held on to it.
“Does it hurt a lot father?” Flynn asked as he saw Zack clenching.
“Just a little” Zack tried to hide his pain.
“Here, Let me help you” Aaron found a piece of clean cloth to wrap Zack’s wound with. Zack clenched again but allowed Aaron to dress the wound. Aaron tried to clean the wound but it was pretty bad. He could see teeth marks on him. The wound was also pretty deep.
“What happened to the beast, did it go away?” Zack’s remembered slowly. “Are you alright Aaron? You are bleeding” Zack noticed the blood stains on Aaron’s shirt.
“Don’t worry father. He is fine. He killed that weather wolf all by himself” Flynn was proud of Aaron.
Aaron smiled faintly. The mention of wolves reminded him about what the lady had said in the book shop.
“Is it true Aaron?” Zack asked. He was surprised.
“Yes Mr. Zack. But I could not have done it without you helping me” Aaron was very grateful for Zack’s help.
“Aaron, you are a son to me. I did what I should have done.” said Zack patting Aaron’s shoulders.
Aaron was lost in thoughts. “Thanks Mr. Zack. Do you know anything about these wolves?”
“Well Yes and no. These nasty creatures are called weather wolves. They are minions of something much more evil. I have heard about them only in tales. I even told stories of them to Flynn” Zack clenched again as Aaron tied the final knot on the wound and then continued, “But till today, I thought they were stories made to scare people to keep them from coming out at night. I don’t know anything more about them.”
Zack tried to get up but he couldn’t. Flynn and Aaron helped stand up. They walked slowly supporting him on their shoulders.
“Show me this weather wolf you killed Aaron. I would like to take a closer look at it” Zack said.
Zack was a brave man and he had proven it this night. If he had not been unconscious, he would have done a great deal of damage to the beast. The three of them stepped outside to look for the dead creature. Its body was fallen at a distance. And it was twisted. Aaron’s sword was still in it.
Aaron and Flynn helped Zack sit on the ledge of the shop and walked towards the dead creature.
“It looks dreadful even though it is dead.” said Flynn.
The sheer size of the creature was scary. It was almost twice the size of any man and seemed to have the strength to tear any living thing into pieces.
Aaron slowly reached for his sword. He held the handle tight and pulled it out with all his strength. The sword was stained black with the creature’s blood. Aaron looked at the sword disgusted.
“It’s not good Aaron.” Zack said suddenly “They might not like it.”
“What do you mean Mr.Zack?” asked Aaron.
“The wolves of course. If they see one of them dead, the others may come back for revenge. We have to do something about it.”
“What can we do?” asked Flynn.
“Let’s bury it” Aaron said coldly. Flynn looked at Aaron, he felt that something about Aaron had changed.
“That’s a good idea. Flynn, go get the shovels from the storage. We should hide the body before anyone else sees it.” said Zack, holding on to his leg.
“We have to take Mr.Zack to the village, he is losing blood” said Aaron. Flynn nodded in agreement and he hurried to bring the shovels. They dragged the body outside the market near the bushes and dug a hole to bury it as quickly as they could.
While they were digging, Flynn was thinking about something. He finally asked Aaron “The wolves did a lot of damage but did not attack any villagers, but why did they attack you?”
Aaron was not prepared for this question, he tried to ignore Flynn but Flynn wouldn’t stop. “What were they looking for? That shopkeeper said they were looking for a boy. And the creature attacked only you?”
Flynn looked at Aaron but Aaron still didn’t say anything.
They put the body in the wide hole and started covering it up.
“Aaron! Do you know why the wolf attacked you and nobody else?” Flynn was annoyed as Aaron was ignoring him.
“I don’t know” Aaron said without any expression.
Flynn looked at Aaron suspiciously. “Do you know something you are not telling me Aaron?”
“No, it’s not my fault that the wolves attacked me” Aaron shouted.
“What have you been up to Aaron?” Flynn was confused now.
“It doesn’t concern you” Aaron said coldly. If there was trouble coming for him, he didn’t want Flynn to be a part of it.
“Doesn’t concern me? We have been friends for the last ten years. Aaron, tell me what is going on. It looks like you know something and you are not telling me.” Flynn was getting very angry now.
“I told you before Flynn. I can take care of myself and I will. I do not need your help” cried Aaron. But he really wished that he could tell Flynn everything and ask him for help.
“Very well then, have it your way” said Flynn as he shoveled mud into the hole and covered it up fully before heading back to the shop.
Zack had dozed off right where he was sitting, the pain had taken over.
Aaron came forward to help but Flynn stopped him “I can take care of him, I don’t need your help.”
Without saying a word Aaron turned towards the empty fields and walked fast. His head was numb; he didn’t know what was going on. ‘Why is all this happening?’ he thought. He wished that he could tell Flynn about what the lady at the book shop told him. But he knew very well that Flynn will not let the matter rest and will dig into it and get into more trouble.
Aaron did not know why the wolves really attacked him and who this ‘searcher’ was, who was looking for him. Aaron then remembered how his mother was scared and was running from something that night. ‘Was she running from these wolves? Have they come for me now?’ he wondered.
Many questions clouded Aaron’s mind. He wanted to ask somebody but whom? His uncle didn’t know much about his mother. Aaron had tried to speak to uncle Sentas about his parents many times before but uncle would not say much. The only thing he said was he didn’t know much about Aaron’s parents. Uncle Sentas himself was only four years old when his sister, Aaron’s mother Bella, left home.
Aaron was walking faster towards the house. He was sweating; this made him feel colder than usual. He held his cloak tight as the wind blew. There was something unusual about the night like something terrible was waiting to happen. Aaron looked around as he passed the woods.
‘Will the weather wolves come again? Will they find me here?’ A chill ran down his spine as he remembered the beast. The creature would have killed him without any mercy. He saw pure madness behind those red eyes. It felt as if it was not in control of itself.
Aaron stopped as he heard a cry from a distance. ’Could it be coming from the village? Are the creatures in the village? Are they looking for me? Brandon! Uncle!’ he remembered.
He ran like crazy towards his house. He had much at stake. As he reached the village and saw many villagers running in all directions and screaming. Some were calling out to their Gods and some were just screaming and running. Aaron’s eyes widened as he saw many houses burning on the mountain. Most of the houses on the hills were also on fire. Aaron rushed to help; he checked from house to house to see if anyone was still trapped in them. Meanwhile, the villagers started to gather piles of water to put the fire out.
“How did this happen?” Aaron asked a terrified villager.
“They were huge monsters; they went from house to house burning them. God save us” His voice was trembling.
‘So, the wolves have come, they know I’m here’. Aaron froze at that thought. ’But, What else do they know? Do they know about Brandon and uncle?’ he thought.
He ran to check on Brandon and Uncle Sentas. He reached home as fast as he could. It was calm there. Aaron took a deep breath of relief. He fixed himself and hid the sword inside his cloak. The bleeding of his arm had stooped now. He hid his wound. ’The wolves did not come here then. May be they don’t know where I live.’
He went inside and found some elders of the village council sitting on the couch with very grave expressions. Uncle was with them, he was speaking to them in whispers. When he saw Aaron coming in, he sprang to his feet and came towards Aaron.
“Thank god you are ok. I was so worried”, said Uncle Sentas.
“I am fine uncle” Aaron tried to keep calm.
“Did the beasts attack you dear? You look awful!” one of the old ladies of the council joined in. she examined Aaron closely.
“No, I escaped, but it was quite bad out there… can I please go to my room now?” Aaron quickly walked away holding his cloak tight not to reveal the sword which still had the wolf’s blood on it. He stopped and remembered Brandon.
“Uncle, is Brandon all right?” he asked.
“Yes, he is fast asleep in his room” said Uncle.
Aaron was so relieved; he got to his room and locked the door. He had a hard day and was not able to put his mind together. He took off his clock and kept it aside. He looked at himself in the mirror, his white shirt was soaked in blood, but the wound was not very deep. He applied some ointment on his wound. He had kept some in his cupboard for emergencies. He clenched as it burned, slowly he dressed his wound not making any sounds.
He washed his sword and removed the blood of the wolf from it. Finally, he sat on his bed with a book in hand.
‘Why is this happening to me?’, he thought.
He looked at the sword again, he had never killed anything in his whole life but today killing this creature had saved his life. He held the sword and said “Thanks for saving my life!”
He was too tired. With so much on his mind, he forgot all about dinner.
’I have offended my friend for the first time” he thought to himself. This thought hurt him more than his wound. He had never spoken to Flynn that way before; he knew Flynn would be very sad. But it was better to keep everything he knew a secret, at least till he knew what was really going on.
The whole village was attacked because of him. Their houses were burnt, people were left homeless, their shops destroyed. Aaron blamed himself for what had happened to them. He felt like he had done it to them.
Somebody knocked on Aaron’s door. He quickly put on a shirt to hide his would and answered the door. His uncle was standing there with a silver plate full of food.
“You didn’t eat anything! So I thought I will bring this for you” Uncle Sentas said smiling.
Aaron managed a weak smile and asked uncle to come in. He took the plate from him and stared to eat eagerly. Uncle said nothing for some time and sat with Aaron on his bed.
“I know you are brave”
Aaron looked up at uncle’s face.
“I saw the sword you were carrying”
Aaron didn’t say anything and continued to eat with his head down.
“Many got hurt today, but thank God the monsters did not attack you. They burnt many houses and I heard about what happened at the market place.” Aaron’s eyes widened, ’What does Uncle know about the market place?’ he thought, as he chewed on his food.
“I shouldn’t have sent you to the Market today.”
Aaron raised his hands in protest but uncle continued.
“When you didn’t come back for so long, I was really worried”, said Uncle Sentas. “I called the village council to a meeting. I wanted to know what was going on.”
“I was helping the villagers put out the fire uncle” said Aaron as he finished his food.
“Yes, I figured that you were helping the villagers. It’s just that, since your mother left you and Brandon with me, the two of you have become a part of me.” Sentas was now smiling that rare smile of his. Aaron knew that it was hard for Uncle Sentas to smile. He had never been really happy after the death of his beloved wife Martha. And now that Mathew had left too, Aaron hardly remember him being so open with anybody.
“Uncle, tell me about my mother. How was she?” Aaron looked at his uncle eagerly.
“Oh! She was very sweet! You remind me of her in many ways, you know. She will order everybody around. She liked to be the elder sister. She used to take care of me so much, our mother was always busy.” There was a hint of tears in uncle’s eyes. Aaron had never seen his uncle so emotional.
“Where did she go uncle? And do you know anything about my father?” Aaron asked.
“I don’t know where she went, but she said it was a magical place. One day when she was only twelve, an old man with a very long white beard and blue robes came here. Bella left with him. Strangely our mother, your grandmother did not object to her leaving. I never saw her after that day, until she came back with the two of you. I did miss her all these years. She will always be my loving sister.” said Sentas. He was almost in tears by now.
He paused and tried to remember something.
“I don’t know anything about your dad unfortunately. Bella never mentioned him. She was in such a hurry, she asked me to keep you and Brandon safe before she left. But after seeing both of you, I can surely tell that your father was a very brave and handsome man. Maybe he was a knight” said Uncle.
Aaron smiled; he had never heard these stories before. He wanted to know more.
“Do you know what happened to my mother and father?” asked Aaron.
Sentas was visibility upset at the question. But he gathered the courage to explain.
“Well, a few months had passed after Bella left you and Brandon with me. On a cold winter night, the same old man appeared at my door once again. This time, he looked very upset. I knew something was wrong right away. He then told me that your mother and father had passed away. Before I could ask him anything more, he disappeared into the night and never came back. This is all that I know.”
Sentas then looked at Aaron oddly, like he was reluctant to say something. He finally said, “He also told me that, they will come for you when you are ready.”
“What? Who will come for me?” Aaron’s jaw dropped.
“I don’t know who they are. The old man didn’t say anything more. He was very mysteries. For a moment, I thought he disappeared into thin air. But was I hallucinating?...I’m not sure. It was dark of course. I couldn’t see properly.” uncle tried hard to remember.
Aaron was now deep in thoughts, ’What does uncle mean when he said when I’m ready? Who will come for me? and why? Were the wolves’ part of all this?’
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Aaron asked.
“I never believed in anything he said, I never thought anything like that will ever happen” Sentas said as he looked down at the floor. He felt guilty that he did not tell any of this to Aaron earlier.
“But I don’t know what to believe in anymore. I don’t know what is going to happen next Aaron”
Aaron was not willing to speak after the uneasy conversation they just had and Sentas didn’t want to stay any longer either.
“Good night Aaron, hope things will be better tomorrow!” said Sentas as he left the room.
Aaron was more confused than ever now. He couldn’t put any of this together in his mind. He thought about everything for a while.
He wanted to speak to Flynn and tell him everything that uncle had said. Aaron wanted to see if Flynn and his father were alright. He decided to go to their house first thing in the morning.
Aaron tried to sleep, but he just laid there wide awake in his bed. It was so hard to sleep now.
’Who is coming to take me? And where to? Do I have to leave my home?’ He decided that no matter who comes, he would never live his village. Brinsar was his home. He will live and die here, he thought.
This thought comforted him a little and very soon, he drifted into a deep sleep. But nightmares haunted him. He couldn’t get the image of the weather wolf out of his mind. In his dreams, Aaron ran and ran but every time, the wolves would catch him. He woke up with a shriek.