Introducing Aleana Azanee. I just don’t tell you yet 😉 You can tell me how much you hate me for that in the comments…
Laiva was woken by a strange sound; a cross between an eagles’ cry and a wolf’s howl, yet completely different. She opened her eyes and found herself staring into a bottomless pit – and the pit was staring back at her. A hot wind blew against her face, waxing and waning like the breath of the world. It was drawing her in, calling for her…
With an effort of will Laiva drew her gaze away. The spell broke. In front of her was a curious looking creature, the head flanked by huge round ears, a trunk like snout and a pair of large black pupil-less eyes, black like a bottomless pit, drawing her in, calling…
She blinked. The animal tilted its head and eyed her irritatedly for a moment, then suddenly dashed off to the left and out of her sight. For a moment she wondered where the animal had come from, but then she realised that something was amiss. She was not in her bed. She always woke up in her bed. In her safe, warm, cosy bed, or at least a bed and not… here, wherever that was. She had a faint recollection of wolves… Then her brain finally caught up and everything fell into place. Of course, the werewolves! She had been on the road to the city and then the werewolves had attacked her!
Laiva rose to her feet and stretched. She felt somewhat chilly, but that was hardly a surprise; even in a warm summer’s night the ground was no place for sleeping. Above, through the crowns of the trees she could glimpse patches of greying sky; it was already dawn, although it would still be several hours before daybreak. Laiva inhaled deeply; she loved the taste of the slightly moist morning air. It tasted of life.
She let her eyes wander. The fire looked as if it had gone out hours ago; even the last glowing amber had turned into ashes. A few metres behind it was the corpse of the werewolf she had shot first, the arrow still sticking out from it and some more metres beyond the corpses of the other two… three? Why were there three?
Laiva let herself sink onto her knees and groped for her bow and arrows, keeping her gaze fixed on the wolf corpses. She was close to panicking when she didn’t find them at once, but a moment later her fingers touched the smooth wood and she relaxed a little, especially when she found the remaining silver arrow next to it.
The bow loaded she ventured forth, nerves as tense as the string. When she reached the lead wolf she prodded it with her foot, although it was clear that one was dead, arrow sticking out of it or not. For a moment she considered pulling the arrow out right away, but as tempting as having a spare arrow was, she would have to let her bow down in order to get it and there was no way she was going to that.
She continued, slowly closing in on the other werewolves. She could make out where the arrows had hit two of them; one was still sticking in the wound in one piece, the other one seemed to have broken by the creature’s death struggle, but the wound was clearly visible. These were both clearly dead, their dead eyes staring into the void. She had always felt a twinge of guilt when she looked at the eyes of her prey, especially the sad accusing look of a deer, but the werewolves stirred nothing in her.
The third wolf was lying with its back turned towards her and all she could tell was that its back seemed unhurt. She couldn’t make out any movement, not even the heaving of its chest, but with werewolves that might as well mean it was holding its breath in order to fool her. Laiva started to circle the animal, keeping her aim fixed upon the animal’s heart. Gradually the front of the animal came into view. She let the arrow go.
It hit the wolf with an audible thud and got stuck deep in the body. Laiva hadn’t meant to, but keeping the string tensed was tiring and in her surprise her hand had slipped; and she was still having a hard time trusting her eyes. Something had torn the wolf’s throat open; not even a werewolf could possibly survive that. That, of course, inevitably led to one question: What had done that?
Laiva knelt down and closely inspected the corpse, but she couldn’t see anything but lots and lots of encrusted blood, so she quickly gave up and started searching the ground instead. There were plenty of wolf tracks and none but wolf tracks; at least no fresh ones. So much for the what, but why would a werewolf kill one it its own kind?
Some distance away the overly enthusiastic cockerel of the smith was giving its usual, and as usual somewhat premature, morning cry. A moment later the other cocks joined in, not wanting to be outdone, and thus the village of Pala was awaking. In half an hour it would be bustling with life, but for now the peace of early morning was still lay upon it.
The village smith had just gotten up and was enjoying the quiet before starting his daily routine when a loud banging emerged from the door. His forehead wrinkled and anger welled up in him. All day long he was in the smithy, patiently enduring the rantings of the villagers who always needed things done by yesterday, but there was nothing, absolutely nothing that could have broken during the night and needed mending right away. He wouldn’t have that; whoever was at the door would have to wait until he was ready.
Slowly he started to dress, trying his best to ignore the continued noise. The banging, however, grew stronger and was complemented with the odd shouts of ‘Open up!’. The voice sounded female, although it was hard to tell, muffled as it was by the heavy door. The smith sighed. Since the morning was ruined anyway, he could as well see who was causing the turmoil.
He grunted a short ‘I’m coming.’ to stop whoever it was from demolishing his door and started to slide the heavy bars to the side. Just as he was about to open the door the banging started up again. He opened it with a jerk and was about to give the disturber some of his mind when he was rendered speechless by the sight the door had opened upon.
His mouth open he stared at the figure with a mixture of awe and utter disbelief. Standing before him, barefoot, in nothing by a night gown and clutching a long ornate sword with her left hand was the innkeeper’s wife, the mane of her uncombed hair adding a quality of wildness to the determination on her face, that would have inspired fear in the hearts of the boldest of men.
The smith involuntarily stepped back, but she took a step forwards, pushed the sword into the perplexed smith’s hand and in a matter-of-fact tone added ‘The blade needs sharpening.’ Without waiting for an answer she turned and marched off. For a moment the smith stared after her, almost expecting her to vanish into thin air.