The wind carried the echo of clicking, along with it an unusual odor foreign to the nearby residents. Ethan stirred awake to the sound and blinked. Radiant beams of sunlight enhanced the lush woods that surrounded him in his wake. For a moment he found only beauty and tranquillity in his surroundings until a realization dawned on him. He raised his head suddenly and stared at the woods bewildered. It had been winter, at least from what he could remember clearly. Now the warmth and greenery of summer has taken the land and has become unrecognizable. But Ethan knew the woods around his village considerably well.
As he went to pick himself up, a sharp pain stabbed at his right arm. Ethan held his teeth and carefully stood. A strange sense of unbalance washed over him catching the huntsman off guard and he fell to the ground with a thud and yip. His eyes widened while his heartbeat raced. The very sound came from Ethan’s own throat.
Immediately he sought to speak while glancing down at himself with unforeseen horror. Instead of a scream, all that came out from his maw was sharp whine like yipping.
“No-no, wait, calm down,” a gentle feminine voice called out. “Gather yourself. It’s alright.”
Ethan whips his head around in alarm only to find a grey colored she-wolf standing before him at a comfortable distance within the trees. She stood nearly hidden beneath the shade and woodland flora for a moment before approaching the wolf with a brown colored pelt slowly.
Witnessing such a beast converse in human speech sent Ethan into a full-blown panic. His words were barks that replaced every thought he tried to speak out loud, and the lack of communications only made things worse.
“Deep breaths, it’s going to be alright,” she assured him. The she-wolf took two steps forward only to pause when Ethan took several steps back.
Despite feeling hurt by his actions, she put on a small smile and continued calmly, “It’s always difficult to speak human words with a mouth full of wolf teeth, but continuing to panic like that and you’ll only be speaking in wolf tongue. If you calm down now, I can help you form the words you wish to speak. It’ll get easier after, I promise.”
Ethan stared questionably at her. His thoughts pressed dense with questions that needed answers perhaps only she could answer. He tried to calm down by taking gradual deep breaths. Once the she-wolf noticed this, she spoke to him again just as gentle as before.
“So, this is going to seem a bit weird, but think like a human and how you would speak as one. Like, for example, remembering how your tongue moved with every sound of a letter that reached your lips and try saying a word.”
The brown wolf pursed his lips and huffed before unintentionally exposing his teeth. How in bloody hell does that reckon to make any sense,
One of the she-wolf’s ears twitched slightly, twisted back before she turned her attention elsewhere and said, “It only works if you’re calm. Any outburst of high emotion will send you spiraling into a fit of barks and growls rather than of spoken words.” Shyly her gaze fell upon Ethan with unclear eyes, “Maybe we can start with names? I have a simple name that’s easy to say. I am called Kate.”
Ethan was hesitant at first, especially with the idea of speaking his name to likely a demon or witch that could do unthinkable things to him. He had never heard of a witch bearing the name Kate nor of a demoness possessing a wolf. He stared at her for a moment longer before heaving a sigh, giving in to her request. Licking his lips and teeth, trying to get used to the way his maw felt, Ethan lowered his jaw. The brown wolf looked to be smiling while actually, he was attempting to mimic Kate’s name. To his astonishment, after a few K sounds the name came out as smoothly as buttermilk and became easier to repeat the more he spoke. The only odd thing that came from speaking her name was how his voice sounded. It appeared a lot rougher than he remembered his voice sounding.
“There you go! See, that wasn’t so hard? Well, now you know my name. So...” Kate trailed off somewhat avoiding eye contact, but he knew what she wanted to ask. He played out the sound of each letter in his head while pretending to be already saying them with his maw. Recognizing how simple it had been to repeat Kate’s name, Ethan voiced his name with confidence.
“Eee-Th-An,” he spoke quietly to himself then swallowed. “Ethan,” he repeated this time loud enough for Kate to hear. “Mm-eye...my nay-m is Ethan,” he finished. Strange,
he thought, as the way talking felt through the jaws of a wolf were unnatural, yet it seemed like second nature. Ethan then wondered if all animals were capable of human speech. No! Such a thought was absurd. Perhaps the most logical theory was that he was dreaming. Ethan would soon wake back in his warm bed to the smell of cedar wood crackling as it burned in the fireplace. Rich scents of pumpkins spices, cinnamon buns, apples, and cranberries suddenly fill his thoughts and made his mouth water. It had been so long since he tasted her festive sweets.
“Hmm,” she hums, breaking Ethan from his thoughts slightly. “Ethan is a nice name. It sure has a better ring to it than Kate.” Kate’s tail waged happily for a short moment. Her eyes then fell onto his maw seeping with clear liquid. “Are you hungry? You’re drooling a lot.”
Without having to answer, Ethan’s stomach growls for him.
“There’s a village not too far from here and a girl there that knows me well. I’m sure she’ll allow us to stay the night. The woods out here are pretty scary at night.” Kate said.
Ethan wondered, What could frighten a wolf capable of speech? Any man would believe that animal the devil if words happened to spill out from its maw. Though, her eyes are nothing like the devil’s unless of course, his are deep pools of blue instead of hellfire.
Kate bounced into the thicket and turned her head, “Well, aren’t you coming?” The gleam in her eyes reminded him of an innocent child wishing to play. She even smiled, yet the sight of her teeth made him shiver.
Not knowing what else to do, Ethan swallowed and started following her slowly, and she took off running. Kate shot as fast as a stag on rut through the woods and because of his limp, Ethan struggled to keep up with her. He tried to call out to her name, telling her to wait but he only barked. Still, she kept on running farther and farther ahead until Ethan lost sight of her. The woodland chatters seemed to amplify all around him as he slowed to a stop, and looked around. A loud clicking passed overhead momentarily distracted him from all the noise.
“Kate!” Ethan called out after taking a steady breath. When he didn’t get a response, Ethan continued to travel in the direction of where she was running. The dense thicket soon became lesser as Ethan entered into a grove, displaying unusual trees with twisting trunks and crooked branches. Their leaves were golden orange hues lit from the radiant sun. Beams of light were dispersed everywhere mixing with the few shadows. Ethan’s eyes stared in awe at the heavenly spectacle before him. Its beauty was captivating.
Ethan jumped, startled by the sound of bitter snorting. A small group of deer with spotted pelts were all staring at him with keen eyes. Their ears flickered and or rotated back while the remaining portions of their body remained as still as statues. What the Huntsman found strange was that all seven deer held wide and thick, flat antlers that branched out from the opposing ends of their skulls. It’s not unusual for a few bucks to band together, but he didn’t know what to make of this gathering. He passed by them carefully with his eyes never parting ways.
“You are very slow for a wolf,” said a giggly voice at the end of the grove.
Ethan looked at the she-wolf with narrow eyes and gradually replied, “You r-run too fast.”
If a wolf could smile like a man, Kate was doing an excellent display. Creepy,
“We are nearly there.”