Against The Current, thrilling installment #8

6 03 2008

Rejoice! This is installment number eight, introducing (cue drumroll) Mynor. Featuring a total of two new characters! Naming them even! In other words: It’s not as bad as it could be.
Oh, and commenting is earnestly encouraged. And if you do, I promise I’ll never again use the phrase ‘earnestly encouraged’. Yuck. I might even comment myself to make sure of that…

Laiva felt very small and very vulnerable all of the sudden. Lying in front of her were another four werewolves, each one with its throat torn apart; and they were far too close to where they had attacked her in the night. She would have heard it if something attacked them as they were fleeing and that meant they had come back for her, come back to get her in her sleep.

She tried hard to fight back the urge to throw up, but the acidic taste already filled her mouth; not having anything in her stomach only made it worse. The world started to revolve around her and she was forced to steady herself against a tree. Her legs gave way and slowly she sunk to her knees, leaving her bent over on the ground and unable to stop retching.

Back in the village Laiva’s mother was banging on another door. Jesij opened the door, but unlike the smith, the middle aged woman who opened it merely glanced at her unusual appearance of her early visitor. She refused to be surprised out of principle and besides, she had had stranger things.

‘What is it, Aleana?’ she asked in such a casual tone it made you wonder if she didn’t get visits like that all the time. Aleana didn’t realise, however; she was in no frame of mind to notice anything like that, even less to wonder about it.

‘I need to get a message to your husband.’ she answered, the firmness of her voice almost masking the slight tremble in it. Almost whispering she added ‘Laiva has run away.’

Saying so Aleana’s resoluteness shattered and left behind was a frightened young woman; barefoot, wearing nothing but a night gown and shaking for helplessness and despair.

Wordlessly the older woman hugged her and held her tight until Aleana had calmed down a little, then lead her into the house and made her sit down. For a moment she wondered what she was to do next, but then she noticed something white in Aleana’s half opened fist; that had to be the message she had mentioned.

Gingerly she removed the small slip of paper from her hand and read the hastily scribbled words. If this was going to reach Isrin in time, she better sent it right away. Pigeons needed only a fraction of the time, but Isrin would almost have reached the city by now, and, of course, the message would have to get delivered first.

Jesij was already half way up the stairs when she remembered Aleana and turned back to her.

‘I better go and send Isrin that right away…’

She hesitated for a moment, but then came to a conclusion.

‘…and then we going to have breakfast. And hot tea. After you get dressed.’

The hot breath of the wolf was brushing against Laiva’s face. She was still on her knees and hands, too weak to even stand up, putting up a fight less so. Not that she would have stood a chance in any case; she hadn’t heard it coming and now it was standing right next to her, its snout only inches away from her face.

To make things worse, she was on level with its gaping jaws, the large canines only slightly more intimidating than the rest of its teeth. And there was still a little blood around its mouth. Laiva closed her eyes. Only a wonder could save her now.

Then there was something hot and wet on her face. Somehow Laiva had expected there to be more pain; indeed there was no pain at all, just that warm and wet sensation as if… It was licking her face?

A few seconds later the wolf stopped licking and instead started to nudge her head upwards, its cold and wet nose pressing against her cheek. With some effort Laiva shifted into a sitting position; she was still feeling somewhat ill and the taste of vomit lingered in her mouth, but it was nowhere as bad as a few minutes ago. Besides, after throwing up even what she didn’t have in her stomach, there was really nothing left anymore.

The wolf took a couple of steps forwards and lied down, resting its head in Laiva’s lap, and looking expectantly up to her. She was a bit surprised to find herself scratching it gently behind the ears before long, but it seemed the natural thing to do.

Everything felt so unreal, as if she had just woken up from an especially terrible nightmare and was now… dreaming? No, that didn’t seem right. Or rather it did. It did feel right. And the wolf felt the same.

She wasn’t sure how she came to that conclusion, but it seemed to enjoy being petted and in fact so did she. Petting it, that was. Its fur was that, well, cuddly; she would never have expected it to be like that. The fur of the werewolves had been grubby.

Now that she came to think of it, this wolf didn’t look very much like the werewolves either. They had been smaller with reddish fur and blood shot eyes, whereas this one had intelligent looking, warm eyes and silken, dark grey fur except for an almost silvery line at its neck, as if it was wearing a collar.

Absentmindedly Laiva brushed over it, her fingers raking trough the fur. Amidst the soft, thick hair, however, she touched something hard; running along the wolf’s neck, almost coinciding with the thin silvery line, was a thin leather strip.

She traced it with her fingers, but she could only follow its outline so far without moving the wolf’s head and she didn’t want to do that. Laiva was sure it was no werewolf, but even so it was a wolf. Even so? It had probably killed the werewolves! Although it looked far too gentle for something like that.

Anyway, if she wasn’t going to move its head she had to think of something different; maybe she could move the strip around the neck. Gently Laiva tugged at the leather strip and indeed, it gave way. The wolf didn’t seem to mind. Careful not to discomfort the it, she continued until she could finally see the ends of the strip; they been tied together with a simple knot.

That was a disappointing sight. She had expected something to be tied to it, something explaining why the wolf wore a collar in the first place, but there was nothing, and the leather strip itself was hardly remarkable. Was it?

It took her a couple of tries, but Laiva eventually managed to untie the knot and the leather strip came loose. Even so she couldn’t see anything special about it. She turned it in her hands. Just a piece of leather. Then so something caught her eye. Written on it in big yellow letters on the inside of the strip were three words: ‘CALL HIM MYNOR’.

Laiva tilted her head and looked at the wolf with raised eyebrows.

‘So you are Mynor?’

Mynor lifted his head and gave a short bark; she took that to mean yes.

‘Nice meeting you, Mynor. I’m Laiva.’

Laiva turned the leather strip in her hand once more. There probably was some reason, even though she didn’t understand it. She should probably put it back. Besides, just taking it like that felt stealing.

As soon as Laiva tried replacing it, however, the wolf withdrew its head and gave her an offended look. Abashed, Laiva quickly tucked it in one of her pockets and out of sight.

‘Well, we’ll have to leave it off then.’

Another short bark.

‘You understand every word I say, don’t you?’

Instead of giving another bark the wolf looked straight into her eyes. There was a pause of several seconds, until Laiva broke the silence.

‘You wouldn’t mind letting me get up, perhaps, would you? I can’t stay here all day, you know…’

That was awkward. She had never been particularly good asking grown-ups for something, but asking a wolf for permission to get up was just… well, awkward. That it sounded as if she wanted to get rid of him, didn’t help either. Mynor, however, simply stood up and waited for her to do the same. He didn’t seem to mind in the least.

Laiva let her gaze wander, but there was nothing here except of the dead werewolves. She hesitated. Wolf meat next to useless, not even dogs went near it; the pelt and teeth, however, usually got a good price and werewolves probably meant a little extra, but did she really want to carry bits of werewolf around? Her face distorted in disgust. No, she didn’t need coin that bad.

Besides, she couldn’t be sure how Mynor would react, although she didn’t believe he would mind much, but then he didn’t seem to mind anything the way he was standing in front of her. He actually seemed to be waiting for something, but what she couldn’t start to guess. Well, she would have guessed he was waiting for her, but that was more her than him. There was no point in getting her hopes up.

‘I’ll be going then. Goodbye.’ Laiva said, her voice hardly loud enough to be audible. She only had only meet Mynor half an hour or so ago, but it was as she had known him forever. Shamefully she wiped a tear out of the corner of her eye; she wasn’t going to cry. She was no small girl anymore.

Laiva turned and started walking. She would head back for the place where she had spent the night, collect her backpack and then she was off to the city. There was absolutely no point in putting it off any longer. There was nothing here left for her but dead werewolves and she couldn’t get away from them fast enough. She threw a quick glance over her shoulder. Mynor was still standing back there. She walked a bit further and glanced again. He didn’t seem to have moved at all. Pulling herself together Laiva stopped and turned around. There he was, expectantly looking at her. Maybe… Well, she could try at least.

‘You can come if you want.’ she shouted rather than said. It was a bit louder than necessary to cross the maybe ten metres between them, but she didn’t think she could muster the courage for a second try, so better to err on the safe side.

A few seconds later a very happy looking Mynor was standing next to her, wagging his tail and obviously enjoying Laiva’s attention, who had knelt down and was hugging him, her face pressed deep into his fur. She felt happy, she felt snug, she felt safe.

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