I stare up at the glowing stars later in the night. I couldn’t sleep so I dragged the quilt with me and I wrapped myself up on the steps. I listen to the wolves howling and the trees blowing. I start shivering within the quilt and my eyes fall down to the burned-out fire. I walk over to the log and I pick up the flints.
I collect the extra pile of tinder from behind me and I throw it all into a giant nest. I rub the flints over and over but to no avail. I almost give up and surrender to the fact that I’ll never do it but then I remember what Thorn said.
I have to stop doubting myself. There is strength inside of me. I can do this.
I try again and again. I become angrier and frustrated. I scrape the flints together more erratically and a spark jumps into the nest.
“Yes,” I say excitedly.
A few minutes later, I have created my own little fire. I relax back against the log and I warm my hands over it.
Then I hear twigs snapping. My eyes move up fearfully as a growl comes from the trees in front of me. I reach down and I pick the blade up. I sit very still, anticipating the return of the hungry wolves.
The set of low, yellow eyes move closer through the darkness. The black wolf walks out slowly and I relax. He turns his head towards the camp, probably looking for Thorn. I haven’t seen the wolf since I met him, it’s as though he’s been distancing himself.
“Hey,” I whisper, dropping the blade back to the ground. “It’s me.”
The wolf walks over to the fire and lays down next to it. The light offers me the chance to glimpse its enormous frame. The beast is spectacular. At least three or four times the size of my body. Its fur is covered in twigs and dirt, while around its jaw I can just make out the splash of something dry and red.
The wolves start howling again but the wolf doesn’t seem concerned. He doesn’t even flinch. I saw him fight one of them and it didn’t stand a chance against him. I imagine that he is the King of these woods and not many creatures or predators mess with him. That’s probably why he and Thorn bond so well.
“He wants me to leave but I’m afraid,” I say. “I don’t want to be alone again.” The wolf remains on the floor, its eyes closed like it’s sleeping. “He doesn’t understand what my life was like. I’ve always been looked at, stared at, but I’ve never been seen. I’ve never been heard. Thorn hears me. At least I thought he did.”
I flinch as the wolf pushes himself up with a loud and threatening growl. A growl that makes me afraid. His teeth snaps towards the darkness. I pick the blade back up as the wolf walks away from me, it starts pacing back and forth in front of the trees. He stops and lowers his head and then he runs into the trees.
The sound of a gunshot echoes throughout the woods, sending a cluster of birds into the sky. I hear a blood-curling scream and then it is silent.
They’ve found me. I stand up slowly, keeping the blade tight against my leg as I twist myself around. I see the end of a shotgun making its way out of the trees to my left. One man walks closer, the gun aiming directly at me.
“Devon Davenport,” the man shouts. “On order of the King, you are to return with me.”
“No,” I say.
“It isn’t a request. You belong to the kingdom and to the potential King Lyle. You are property of the royals. If you do not come with me then I have orders to shoot.”
I wipe away my tears and I stand my ground. “Then shoot me.”
The man lowers the gun and looks over me with a small smile. “That won’t be necessary.”
He snaps his head to the direction of footsteps and he cowers backwards, bringing the gun back to his eye level as the wolf walks over to us.
“What in the name of hell is that?” he yells frantically. “I will shoot you! Stop right there!”
The wolf positions himself in front of me and lifts his head so high that I am entirely blocked from view of the man. The man shoots at the ground in a desperate attempt to warn the wolf off but he doesn’t move.
He frantically attempts to reload the shotgun and the wolf charges at him. The man loads at the last moment and pulls the trigger but the wolf jumps through the air and wraps his entire jaw around the man’s throat, aggressively throwing him into the distance.
It takes a few moments until I realize. I didn’t even feel the bullet enter me because of the amount of adrenaline pumping through my body. I clutch a hand to my arm, where blood is leaking down and falling over my hand.
The wolf sniffs the air and then stares right at me. He can smell the blood and I’m scared that he’s going to attack. He runs back to me and sniffs around my wound, almost knocking me backwards.
“I need to find Thorn,” I say quietly. “I need to warn him.” I start stumbling towards the woods.
I trip over and land on my stomach as the wolf pulls me backwards by the end of my pants. I squeal as he drags me backwards over the leaves.
“Let me go!” I scream. “He’s out there! I have to find him. . . I have to. . .” The last thing that I hear is the wolf’s whimper before I fall unconscious.