Thorn (Werewolf)

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Chapter Five

My father has been chasing me for over an hour. At least it feels like an hour, it could be longer. My brother too probably. My legs and arms are bleeding from the amount of times that I’ve fell over or scraped against branches. My body is now tainted with wounds and I’m almost certain that I’m one more fall away from staying on the ground.

“Devon!” My father’s scream makes me flinch. “You cannot run from this you stupid girl! We will find you!”

I push myself down a hillside, my dress becomes tangled in branches and I have to rip it to break free. I am plunged into an aggressive roll down the hill. My head smacks against something hard and my entire vision is compromised. I hold my head as I try to stand but my legs will not comply with the order. I spot a safety zone hidden underneath a broken tree stump, it’s just deep enough to hide in. I drag myself over to it desperately, my fingers clawing into the leaves and dirt as I crawl myself into the small hole beneath the log. I think that I’m safe but then I hear footprints right above me. I clench my hand around my mouth.

“She can’t have gotten too far,” I hear my father say between pants.

“It’ll be dark soon,” Coan says. “We should head back.”

“And admit to the King that we lost her?”

“What other choice do we have? Lyle is going to punish her for this. Maybe she’s better off out here.”

“Lyle has every damn right to punish her!” my father growls. “She accepted his proposal and then ran into the woods on their wedding day. She has humiliated him. She has humiliated all of us!”

“She didn’t accept.”

“What?”

“Devon never accepted a proposal. There was no proposal. She is being forced. So you can’t really blame her for wanting to escape.”

“Watch your tongue, boy. Did you know about this?”

“Of course not,” Coan says.

“Well she isn’t going to survive for long out here without help,” my father says. “If we don’t find her then an animal will. Check down there and I’ll take this path.”

I nudge myself deeper into the hole as Coan slides down the hill. He walks right by me and at first I think he hasn’t noticed but then he turns his head and looks directly at me. I remove my hand and I shake my head, tears falling down my cheeks.

“Stay there,” he says. “I’ll lead him away from you.”

“Thank you,” I whisper.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”

Coan jogs away from me, towards the direction of my father. My head is spinning and I cannot stay conscious any longer. The whole world fades away as I rest my head onto a pile of leaves and I close my eyes.

I wake up in the dead of night. My head is aching but my vision is better, despite it being dark. The moon allows some light and I follow it through the trees. Walking in the woods in the middle of the night is probably the worst choice a human could ever make but I have to keep moving. I’ve already lost a lot of time.

I am disoriented. My body sways into trees aimlessly as blood leaks from the wounds on my legs. I am lost but I do not care that I am lost. I do not wish to find my way out of the woods, I wish to go in deeper and become so entangled in the wilderness that death is the only option.

I don’t want to die but I’d rather die than go back. I would rather be killed by everything I could be killed by in these woods than have to marry Lyle.

I walk for hours. Through the spooky and calm mist, through the noise of hooting owls and distant howling wolves, I walk.

Lyle will be looking for me. He will be sending an entire army into these woods to search for me, if he hasn’t already. I embarrassed him in front of the entire kingdom. Everyone will know of my flee by now. I’m not sure if he’ll still want to marry me or if he’ll kill me on sight.

Either way, I feel smug about it. I grin as I imagine him standing there at the altar, waiting patiently for his bride that never arrived. I hope it hurt. I hope it tore at his heart and made him feel as small as I felt when he assaulted me.

This was my revenge and it feels good. Now every girl and parent will know that future brides of Lyle would rather be torn apart by bears and wolves than have to endure a life with him. Hopefully it makes all of the high-borns withdraw their offers.

I finally exhaust myself and I drop beside a tree to take a quick nap. I probably won’t wake up but I can’t walk any further. I hear the wolves howling again and it makes me flinch. They sound closer than before.

Come and get me. I’m done.

+ + +

The light of the sun casually awakens my eyes. I stretch out against the ground, sighing as I pick up some leaves and release them through my fingers. Great. Still alive.

I look around, it all looks the same. It looks no different to where I even started. I don’t know if I’ve walked further into the woods or if I’ve completely circled back. The only positive thing is that Lyle and the King haven’t found me yet. Maybe they don’t care that much. Maybe I’m already forgotten.

I push myself up, observing the wounds on my legs from yesterday. A couple are really bad, I wince as I gently touch them. Blood. Dammit. I’ve probably left spots of blood since the hillside. The cuts are dry now but I should have checked them before I fell asleep. The King has experienced trackers that will look out for that. I have to be more careful.

I tear pieces of strips off my wedding dress and I tie them around the bad wounds, including my arms and my hands. I go in search of water. Finding water in the woods is impossible without rain. Everything is dry and musty. There aren’t any streams or lakes, there is only trees and mountains.

I try to appreciate the beauty of it all. It really is beautiful here. The trees are so mighty, covered with red-brown leaves that reflect the sunlight. I arrive at a small field clearing which is more of a meadow. I walk through it, looking for any sign of puddles or streams. I must be on some sort of hill because I can see for miles. All I see is trees. Miles and miles of them. There is no sign of houses or civilization in any direction.

I clock a mountain that looks quite close and I decide to head there. The odds of anyone living on it are slim but at least it gives me a direction to try and head towards.

I don’t know long I’ve been walking for but the sky is starting to get darker again. The temperature is dropping and I can already feel my body changing. I keep my arms close my chest as I start to shiver. My throat is so dry that I cannot even swallow anymore. My stomach growls endlessly from hunger.

I foolishly decide to climb down another hill before I sleep again and I end up slashing my whole palm against a thorn bush. I cry out as I hold it, arriving on the level ground with tears stinging my eyes. The blood leaks down my wrist and falls to the floor. I untie one of my leg wounds and I wrap the strap around my palm, keeping pressure against it as I curse at myself.

The sound of snapping twigs makes my head spin around. I can hear someone—or something—close by. I back up slowly to a tree, keeping my eyes on every direction. The dehydration could be making me paranoid or there could actually be something watching me. I’ve felt eyes on me for a while but I thought that was a normal response to being alone in the woods.

I run for as long as I can before I collapse to the ground. The exhaustion is taking me someplace else. I close my eyes as I wrap my arms around my body. I am succumbing to the elements. They are taking my life minute by minute.

Hours pass and I am still awake. I manage to sit myself up against the tree, my lips trembling as I look around at the empty woodland. I am suddenly so afraid. I pull on my hair and I start rocking back and forth, until a low growl snaps me out of it.

I look up slowly. The shape of something enormous moves out of the shadows of the trees and I hear branches snapping as it comes towards me. I am so stunned that I cannot move, blink, breathe or think at all. The wolf has its back arched, its jaws opening to show its sharp and terrifying fangs.

I stay still. I don’t know if I’m hallucinating or not but either way I do not fight. I give the wolf silent permission to end my life.

It creeps closer, its fur is black as the night so it makes it hard to truly see how big it is but it looks much bigger than any wolf I have ever seen or heard of. It growls at me one final time as it springs its legs back, ready for the attack.

Its eyes meet mine, the amber glow of its eyes becomes brighter and more intense. There is a long pause as the wolf halts. It suddenly sits, its head twisting at me in a bizarre way.

I lay back down, the tiredness pulling me back into the darkness. I don’t know what is worse. The dehydration or the cold. I don’t believe the wolf is real so that can’t be worse. Or is it?

I keep my arms tight to my chest as my shallow breathing becomes quieter and slower. I am dying. Really dying. My grip on reality is slipping. I feel warm, which confuses me. It is suddenly like I am wrapped in a blanket of fur. My hands reach out and I try to pull the blanket tighter against me. I hear a growl in response.

Blankets growl?

Have they always growled? The blanket also has a button that keeps pressing itself into my cheek. The button is strange, it feels wet and air comes out of it. Suddenly, the button vanishes. The blanket remains though and I smile as I hold it close to me.

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