Axiom - February 2000
Eating people is wrong... - Simon Clay
Wolves - michelle
(page 15/18)

Eating people is wrong...

Wolves are not stupid. At least, they rarely make the same mistake twice. Often, the reason for this involves a woodcutter who just happens to be passing at the time, but sometimes they do something really smart. This is the story of such a wolf.

This wolf was a young male. Kicked out of his pack by the alpha when he'd started to take an interest in females, he went in search of a territory. He'd found a nice one, recently vacated from the age of the scent marks. It was in an oak wood, which showed few signs of human habitation, only two small cottages, one deserted one not. The wolf stayed away from both.
'Wolf', by michelle
The uninhabited cottage smelt of wolf and human blood, the same age as the old scent marks on his new territory. The other belonged to a tall human who cut down trees, with an axe that looked very sharp. The wolf had an uneasy feeling that these facts were somehow related.

Nevertheless, when he saw a young human - female, if he wasn't mistaken - skipping through the woods towards the woodcutter's cottage, his first thought was: *Easy meat*. As intimated before, this particular wolf was not dim. He studied his prey carefully. She - definitely she, though still young - wore a garment that the wolf could only think of as *loud*. It was a red half cloak of some kind, with a hood that covered her head. It was not camouflage, that much was certain, and it cut off her peripheral vision, which struck the wolf as silly. Perhaps she had some other form of defence?

The wolf continued stalking the girl for a while. She skipped and sang, without a care in the world. Perhaps her defence was the woodcutter?

See what I mean about this wolf?

He listened carefully, and made out the distant sound of axe blows on wood. The wolf judged the distance at a shade under a mile - much too far for the woodcutter to come to the aid of a girl. The wolf waited a while longer, until he made his first mistake, which quite a lot of smart people make. He assumed he'd thought of everything...

Sneaking away, the wolf dashed through the wood to a place where the path narrowed between two large thorn bushes and concealed himself to wait. He didn't have to stay there long. He heard the girl several minutes before she appeared before him on the path.

With a terrifying snarl he leapt out as she stepped forward. As he landed in front of her - he'd elected to make two bounds so that he didn't fall into those bushes by accident - she screamed. The sheer power of the scream caught the wolf by surprise and he hesitated before making his second leap, which fact saved his life.

There was a rushing thud, which the wolf would have recognised as a sonic boom if he'd ever heard of such a thing, and the woodcutter appeared between him and the girl, axe poised to swing. The wolf converted his attack into a sideways spring, caught himself on a thorn bush, and ran. The thing that stuck in his mind was the look of absolute surprise on the man's face.

It was some weeks later that the wolf next saw the girl. He'd been doing some hard thinking in the intervening time, and come to the only conclusion he could work out - the girl was under the protection of a powerful wizard. Why such a being would bother about a girl-child so stupid that she'd walk through woods announcing her presence to every predator for miles around was not something he could figure out...

Bad things had happened in the last few weeks. Another male had appeared at the boundaries of his territory. The new one had been smaller than him, but had postured for a bit. Eventually the male had given in and gone away, without a fight, but the wolf was nervous about what would happen next time. Even more worrying, no female wolves had appeared, and he'd been in his new territory almost three months.

All in all, the wolf decided, if he could have the protection of the wizard he'd be much better off. He might even be able to fight and best the alpha wolf of a large pack... After all, if the wizard was willing to protect a useless girl-child then he'd surely defend such a magnificent specimen of wolf-kin as himself.

The next time the wolf heard the girl, he hurried ahead to where the path passed through a clearing, lay down, and pretended to sleep. When she entered the clearing, he opened his eyes as if disturbed from deep slumber. Then he leapt to his feet with a startled yip of terror, put his tail between his legs, and ran.

He kept up this performance, picking different spots along the path every time he heard the girl skipping and singing through the woods. She seemed to pass through two or three times a week, so sometimes he deliberately avoided her so as not to make her suspicious. Any time he "was spotted" he ran crashing through the wood, making enough noise to wake the dead.

Spring turned to summer, and summer into autumn. It was just past the autumnal equinox when she first left food for him. He ignored it and she did it again. He nibbled at this and she left out more, which again he ate.
'Wolf', by michelle
That winter was a good one for the wolf.

It was spring when he first deigned not to run away at her approach.

It was summer by the time she'd learned to speak his language.

"Are all wolves as intelligent as you?" asked Kate one day as she spread her red cloak on the grass covered earth and sat down on it.

"Many of them," answered the wolf, his head on his forepaws. "Some are brighter than me, some are not. Is it not like that with humans?"

"Yes," she replied, biting her lip. "Um... There was a wolf here before you. Um... Was mean...?"

"I did not know him," replied the wolf carefully. "I cannot tell. I deduce from your manner that he died because of you?"

"Yes. He was trying to eat me. He'd eaten my grandmother, and disguised himself as her. He was about to eat me when the woodcutter..." She broke off.

"Like the first time we met?" asked the wolf carefully. This was the first chance he'd had to broach the subject of the wizard.

"No." She bit her lip again. "He just happened to be there. He saved my life. It's just that...". The wolf licked her hand, rested his head in her lap and was silent for a while.

"The day we first met," he said, *very* carefully this time. "The woodcutter appeared out of nowhere. Is he...?" The wolf left it to trail off delicately.

Kate looked away and didn't say anything. The wolf took the hint and changed the subject.

The wolf and the girl stayed friends for several years. It was in her ninth year that the stranger arrived. The two were sitting in their usual clearing, talking of nothing much when a slender old man carrying a long staff appeared beside them. He startled even the wolf, who hadn't heard him coming, and who now bounded to his feet, standing between the girl and the old man, teeth bared.

"Now, now," said the man, in wolvish. "None of that. I'm only here to talk to your friend."

He sat down and the wolf began to feel stupid, so he sat down on his haunches as well. The man seemed to be aware that the wolf was poised to spring, but equally seemed to be ignoring it. The wolf wasn't sure what to make of it.

"Hello Kate," said the man, with a faint smile. "I'm Asgan the Purple, I'm seeking an apprentice.."

The wolf has an electrical burn scar down his right flank, damage sustained defending Kathrin the Red at the Battle of Yspan. Both his ears are shorter where the daemon Frink snapped at him. His tail is half-length, victim to the dragon Grafgarn's teeth.

On the other hand, he'd never gone hungry, except for that time in the Lahgren Wastes, and the whole army had gone hungry then. He is, at the moment, curled up before the fire in Kathrin's cave, listening to the muffled sound of the blizzard outside, almost drowned by the nearly grown cubs scuffling nearby. His mate dozes next to him, and Kathrin is reading a book by the firelight, her small feet resting on his back.

"On the whole - I think I did well not to eat her.."

Simon Clay