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Galahad came from the back of the pack and took his stride beside Maria. He must have something important to tell me, thought Maria. Galahad and the other wolves treated Maria with the respect of one who was not fully aware of a rightful inheritance.

“We will soon be at the entrance to the Garden of Garourinn. We will leave you there as we cannot enter the Garden. It is a privilege only to those who have the Spark of God in them.”

“But you do have that Spark,” said Maria.

“It is our task to serve those with the Spark and, in so doing, one day we may earn it ourselves. One of our ancestors sacrificed his life to save a baby human not far from here. He was badly wounded in a battle with a wolf from a foreign pack but he managed to keep the child safe. He carried it to the border of Garourinn where it was gratefully accepted. He did not know that it was the youngest child of the Head Gardener. In return, our ancestor wolf was given the Spark of God. He died from his wounds but was then reborn as a human and began his long journey in a different dimension.”

“That’s beautiful,” said Maria, “but he may have been better off staying as a wolf. You wolves are happy. Most humans are not.”

“No, Maria. It is a great honour to be human. Humans have the capacity to freely choose their destiny and, one day, they will all choose the right destiny. We do not have that choice. Farewell, it has been my happy duty to serve you.”

“The honour has been all mine, Galahad,” said Maria with restrained emotion. One doesn’t cry to an alpha wolf. They are too dignified.

Each wolf came up in turn and rubbed its head on Maria’s leg and then they turned as a pack and fell into place. Maria felt she would truly miss them. She wished she could have a pack of wolves back home in Waldmeer but that would hardly work.

Maria had been sitting at the border of Garourinn for several hours. Not only did Amira not come but neither did anyone else. She rested under a tree and drifted into a content sleep. She could feel the filtered sun radiating from above. She dreamed that Amira was with her.

“Don’t you think we have waited here long enough, Maria?” said Amira. “We have things to do back home.” It dawned on Maria that all her walking with Milyaket had called Amira back into her being. Every step she took deeper into silence brought Amira closer to her soul. And her time with the wolves, when she had become so aligned with the pack and the rhythm of nature, stabilised Amira’s presence even more. By the time Maria and the pack had reached the border of Garourinn, Amira was completely re-established within her again.

While still asleep, Maria dreamed that she was resting on the back of a large, flying creature. Maybe, it was an angel. The wind was rapidly pushing past her but she wasn’t cold. It was beautifully warm and cosy in a nest of softness.

The next morning, Maria woke in her own bed in Waldmeer.

“Nice to have you back again, Maria,” Lucy said kissing her daughter. “We always miss you even though you are only in the back hills. It has been quiet at the cafe but today we will be busy. I will be glad of your help.”

Maria could remember every detail of her trip to the North Country. Her travels were no longer disappearing into the ether.

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