The forest was still in the early hours of a cold autumn morning. The silence was broken only by the breeze through the trees and the restless trickling of a stream running through the middle of a clearing. A ghostly mist slowly danced over the dew sodden ground faintly illuminated by the failing glow of the moon overhead, obscured by a veal of thickening clouds. Nothing moved apart from the crystal clear water. No creature made a sound, and yet among the dark shadows a pair of watchful eyes peered over the clearing and observed the scene with extreme caution, studying every detail as though hunting for any signs of life. The slightest movement or sound, the smallest disturbance would mean potential danger. She was weak, hurt and vulnerable.
A gap in the clouds passed over the moon and temporally brightened the scene. A faint rustle from beneath fallen leaves nearby caused her body to tense, probably just a rodent, but she couldn’t afford to be careless. With great courage she dared to step her paw slowly and as silently as she was able from behind the over growth, placing it on the cold ground with the gentlest touch, then froze again to re assess the danger. With the trickling water beckoning her, she cautiously moved out of her hiding place, and crept toward the stream, each step as delicate and as deliberate as the first. Her grey and white fur was wet with dew and blood. She limped from a savage injury to her hind leg with her tail between them. Her body battered yet her spirit defiant.
A strong gust of wind hit the trees and made them hiss. Somewhere a branch cracked and she stopped motionless again, crouched lower, ready to run with the last of her effort. Another fight now would surely be her last. Her tattered ears erect and her nose twitching, she waited until confident she was still alone, then creped closer to the stream until she stood at its edge.
The smell of the fresh clean water filled her nose with pure delight. Her mouth pined for its sweet taste as she heartily lapped it up yet she coughed and spluttered. Each time she tried to swallow her throat burned. Such was the ferocity of the previous night with several sets of jaws trying to leave their mark, yet her need compelled her to carry on. With every drop she managed to down, the near freezing temperature seamed to numb the agony. It was little relief.
After drinking as much as she was able she stood on trembling limbs and again observed the surrounding area. The night was beginning to brighten. The wind had picked up a touch passing thousands of smells and odours by her snout, the many scents of the forest and the freshness of he air. The hiss of the trees and trickling water was becoming faint as her ears were succumbing to an increasing tinnitus. Only the sound of her heart remained audible as a rapid relentless beat.
She steadily walked into the water until she found a shallow place somewhere in the middle. It was so cold it stung on the pads of her paws, yet the increasing sensation of tension through out her body and her near total exhaustion made her care little for any more pain.
Enough was enough. Panting deeply, she looked at her wavering reflection as the moon found another gap to shine through. Her snout was covered in cuts and gashes that wept with blood. Her right eye was swollen, her left ear was torn; the clear water was obscured with trickles of blood as the many wounds all over her body bled.
Her limbs grew weak. She slowly lowered until she was lying in the water. One final look around, and she curled her self up, laying her head on her paws to keep her snout out of the water, then gradually, her eyes closed as a strong numbing sensation spread through her whole body, eliminating the pain and the biting cold of the stream.
The night passed. The wind eased. The mist continued to creep steadily over the ground. The birds had long since begun to sing yet none flew over the clearing where the stream trickled over rocks and stones. Gradually, from out of the surrounding forest, various animals began to dare their way toward the stream as they do every morning. Today, their instincts told them to stay away. Something wasn’t right. Among the animals was a stag, Leader of a group of deer. It sensed something, potential danger, yet his group needed refreshment. He dared to step towards the stream until he stood by the edge. Everything seamed normal, except for what looked like a new rock in the middle of the water. All around the scene was clumps of white and grey fur flickering in the breeze. There was an unfamiliar smell that his instincts told him was something to be cautious of.
His thirst was great. He looked back the way he came, twitching his ears and licking his lips; then dipped his mouth to drink. As he did other members of his group hurriedly yet quietly came up to join in. as more came he walked further into it, getting closer to the new rock. The strange smell was coming from it and it was covered in more of the wispy fur being blown away by the breeze. He sniffed around it then dared to gently nudge it. As he did it moved. Instantly the group of deer’s ran back to the forest. The stag stopped just before disappearing and looked back. The rock was a young human woman looking back at him with wild fearful eyes through strands of long wet hair.
She watched the stag leap into the overgrowth and vanish. Shivering, naked and weary, she looked around her. Amongst the residual physical pain from her catalogue of injuries, she felt a sense of great relief. She was alive and alone. Her wounds had closed but no doubt she would have left a strong trail for the others to follow by the scent of her blood. It won’t take them long to find her. Exhausted or not she had to keep moving, had to give herself the chance to heal and gather her strength to face them again. One more fight should do it. Another victory and they will be the ones running.
She looked at her reflection. Her pretty face will have scars, as will her throat, chest and the rest of her body, a small price to pay for what she’s fighting for. Her eyes were still the eyes of the wolf. She cupped her hands and splashed her face several times until her reflection showed them to be human again.
Four weeks until the next full moon. Four weeks to avoid the others and be weary of the humans. She looked hard at her wavering face in the water. She had nothing to lose now, yet everything to gain.
© Lord Stabdagger 2017