The night was impossibly quiet. Its stillness embracing the village of Rinsha like the protective arms of a fretting mother. This was a night where all who were touched by the calm to be resting silently in their beds, their bodies preparing for another day. Even so, one of these villagers was awake and staring out at the growing moon, lost in her thoughts of her harvest experience two years ago,"Great things need time to make ready, your affinity will be legendary....." If that was the case, then what would her affinity be? Had she imagined the encounter? Could it be that those words were what she so desperately longed to hear that her mind had simply formed a being to ease her feelings of inadequacy?
"What do I do now?" Winna asked the darkness as the night responded with little more than the chirping on the inques beetles who were chiming in with their midnight song. If she were Seto, maybe she could hear the comforting words they had to offer, but she would never want to be that ugly boy even if it meant gathering the answers she so desperately sought. Her dark eyes turned to the time keeping flower which still held six petals before she was supposed to wake up. Recently, Winna had been awake to watch all the petals lift back up through the stem and restart the day. Sleep wasn't so easy to come by when one's mind is full with conflicting thoughts and worries.
"I have to do something...." Winna told herself as she lifted one foot up and over the window sill and onto the conveniently placed mordian tree which grew beside her bedroom. The gnarled bark provided the perfect grooves and holes for her bare feet to wedge into as Winna slid her way down the immense branches and lept silently onto the dew kissed grass. Peeking back up to her home, Winna listened carefully to make sure she hadn't aroused her parent's suspicion and left when she was satisfied her decent was as careful as she had intended.
The village of Rinsha was even more peaceful at night then it was in the day to day life she had known since birth. Everyone was careful not to upset the balance, so most problems were solved quickly and with limited interruption to nature. Even so, with everyone sleeping soundly, Winna felt as though she were a ghost wandering its many pathways as she left the boundries of the safe village and into the waiting forest. Careful not to cut her exposed feet on the thorns on the forest floor, Winna wandered through the moonlit trees as she had so many times in the past with Mie fretting about becoming lost in their endless twists and turns. Where she found it terrifying, Winna felt the forest's confusion was comforting, feeling as if she could become lost to the world for a few hours and resurface when she was able to face it again.
Selecting a hollowed base of an impossibly large tree, Winna settled herself in its roots, curling her knees to her chest, chestnut hair spilling over them as she listened to the midnight song around her. Joining the inques beetles, were the doke birds and the deep call of the himen lizard nearby, probably scavenging for his next meal in the brush. Though there definately dangers in these woods that would love to taste the sweet flesh of an innocent girl, Winna felt secure in her abilities to outwit any creature who may wish to cause her harm. How arrogant the fifteen-year-old had become. If she only knew the assassin who was waiting only a few yards away.
"Leafwood, every harvest you say the same thing to me. Why has nothing happened yet?" Winna asked the darkness, wishing that her guide would give her more than the cryptic riddles he always did. So lost in her thoughts, Winna didn't notice the being who was stalking closer by the moment, its jaws watering with anticipation for his next meal. The mangy fur disturbed the brush as the hound's massive paws moved more harshly than should reasonably be allowed for a creature its size. With a stream of red drool dripping from yellowed teeth, the blood shot eyes, accustomed to darkness watched his beautiful prey hungrily.
Winna sighed, running her snowy hands through her dark hair until a sickly sweet scent poisoned the breeze. Curling her nose, Winna tried to place the odor as her heart began to race at the intrusion. Suddenly, her tempest colored eyes spotted the being who was now only feet from her shaking form. Gasping lightly, the now aware prey raised to her feet and placed a hand to the steady tree behind her. "What is it you seek, child of the forest?" Winna asked shakily as her father's words came to her mind, "If you are ever approached by an unfamiliar beast, do not run. Ask its business and some may answer peacefully before you make the situation worse by fleeing."
While Winna knew that only Whisperers could commune with all animals of a specific type, there were a few beasts in the forest who were capable of human speech. Praying that this was one of them, Winna tried desperately to stand firm as the now exposed beast made its way closer to her. When the hound spoke though, Winna found she would have been much happier if she hadn't asked as the voice was unlike any she had heard.
"I....come....to........feeeed," the voice was not fit for this creature. The animals that learned human tongue sounded as if it came as naturally to them as if she were speaking to another villager in Rinsha. This beast however, sounded like it were chewing on honey, unable to quite form words around the stickiness. There was something very wrong with the hound as Winna watched his movements carefully. While still holding the body of a predator, he seemed to lack the grace as if his legs wouldn't quite work the way he wanted them too.
"What's wrong with you?" She asked, reaching behind her to the broken branch which stuck her leg painfully. At the terrible laugh that escaped the beast's jaws, Winna felt her blood freeze in her veins as her fingers wrapped securely around the branch. While she was not an experienced fighter, the survival instinct pulsating in her shaking body told her that she could not out run the crazed monster. As the hound stumbled drunkingly towards her, Winna's mind tried desperately to remember Elder Fala's lesson on how to manipulate an animal's intention, "Child of the forest, keeper of nature's goodness and life, I am not your prey. You will be harmed if you attempt to devour me. I am not prey."
As the words came from her mouth, Winna felt a spark of life within her, "I am not prey." The creature stopped and looked at her for a moment, regaining a calm it hadn't experienced for weeks. The ceasing of the animal's pursuit gave Winna hope as she held up a shaking hand, "S....sit?" To her amazement, the hound's powerful legs folded as he fell sloppily to the ground. Even though every muscle was frozen with fear and her mind told her to flee in the opposite direction, something in Winna's heart told her to keep going as she forced her bare feet to shuffle closer to the waiting animal.
"Child of the forest, tell me what's wrong. What has caused you so much pain?" The creature stared transfixed at the human who approached him slowly. Though part of his mind understood her words, the darkness clouding it mixed his thoughts and all that was left was confused silence. Winna's heart pulled slightly at the painful whimper which escaped the hound's throat miserably. There was something forcing it to behave in the way it was and even though she was terrified, the feelings of compassion within her drove the equally confused woman further.
"It's all right, it's going to be all right." Winna whispered, but wasn't sure if it were to the beast or herself as she stood only inches from the burdened animal.His jaw hung limply as drool freely fell from it, his blood shot eyes stared blankly at her as she noticed the sharpened claws which could easily shred her flesh at the wrong move. Bending down, Winna stared eye level with the disturbed animal as she searched her mind for what to do next. It seemed calm for now, but there was no part of her that could guess how long that would last as she raised her pale hand to place it on the massive head.
"Please tell me what happened....." She whispered as it whimpered terribly. The fur was matted and stuck with twigs and mud as she stroked between his pointed ears softly. Suddenly, something pulled her in as her eyes went dark and the terrifying blackness of the unknown swept through her. Her blinded eyes searched desperately for anything to plant her reality on until she saw it. A red, glowing aura pulsated before her, the size of her fist as she watched it wickedly pump like a malicious heart.
Numbly reaching forward, Winna touched the evil thing gingerly and willed everything inside of her for it to depart. That is when the pain started. A fierce, burning pain flew through her finger tips and raced to her mind sharply as a tortured scream errupted from her throat. When she retracted her hand, everything became clear again and the sounds of the forest met her ears distantly. Winna's mind raced as the rising sun lit the trees around her. When she had first come to the forest, it had to have been a little after midnight, and yet the sun told her it was already morning?
Blinking against the rising sun, Winna turned her head to the side, some mischievous twigs poking her skull as she laid eyes on the proud creature sitting only a few feet from her. The wolf like creature sat regally, his now clear eyes scanning for any intruder as she nearly fainted at its closeness. Pondering whether or not she should pretend to be dead or rush away, Winna bit her lip nervously until the hound turned his brown eyes down and a voice which was deep and commanding stated, "You are awake."
Winna jumped at the difference as the previous night filled her memory all at once. Was this the same deranged creature she had encountered before? The change was awe-inspiring as she sat up bewildered, "What.....what happened?" Her throat punished her for the question as it burned with rawness. To her surprise, the noble animal stepped closer to her, his movements graceful and precise as he sat beside her, "You saved me, human princess. The last thing I remember was eating an animal that tasted terrible and then darkness for who knows how long? Then I could hear your voice and watched as a human with dark hair and eyes the color of the night sky approached me, her light filling the darkness. Now my mind is clear, thanks to you."
Winna raised her eyebrows at the way he described her in his mind. The person he saw was a regal princess, where as she felt that she were still a confused, scared little girl. Sitting herself up on her knees, Winna felt stiff and sore as she took in the restored wolf dumb-founded, "What is your name, child of the forest?"
He scanned the area to ensure no danger was present and looked to her once again, "I am Vikas, leader of the wolves of this land and I am in your debt, human princess." A rushing fluttered through her heart as she blushed slightly, "So you are a king? Or an alpha, that's what it's called, yes?" The massive head nodded as she smiled softly, "I'm not a human princess. I'm just a normal girl. My name is Winna." Vikas leaned forward and licked her dirtied cheek affectionately, "Then you are quite the normal human, Winna. You have my gratitude and my protection as thanks for your assistance in clearing my mind."
Winna's heart pounded at the sound of his words as she reached up and removed a thorn from his ear. Taking a moment to feel its softness, Winna couldn't help, but pet the wolf king's face, an act he didn't seem to mind as he sniffed her palm. For Winna, this moment could have lasted forever until a voice drew her attention, "Winna! There you are! We've been looking........" Winna looked up to the faces of her classmates as Mie stood shocked at the sight they saw.
Skyner, Liwe, even that jerk, Seto all stared bewildered at the size of Vikas and the way she pet him lovingly. "Hi everyone," Winna said lamely as Vikas stood and shielded her from the crowd, "Are these humans friendly?" He growled as Winna stood up straight, her muscles angry with the movement, "Yes, yes, these are...." she looked to Seto, "friends....mostly. It's all right Vikas." He sat back on his haunches and waited as Elder Fala walked down the slight hill with more grace then her age should have allowed and smiled, "It appears youf ound your affinity, Winna. Let's talk about it over breakfast, yes?"
The words made Winna nearly faint as she placed a hand back on the midnight fur of the wolf king,"Thank you for watching over me, Vikas. But I'm fine now and I need to go home." The massive hound turned his chocolate eyes up to what in his mind was still a princess and bowed majestically, "If you ever need anything from me and my pack, simply call out my name. I will bewaiting, sweet Winna." With that he disappeared back into the dark woods which embraced his figure like a ghost as Winna stood, dirty, exhausted, but more radiant than she had ever believed she could be.