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A note from Rhea Bring

A little late, but it's a long one I wanted to get right. May post another tonight or tomorrow sometime.

Enjoy!

~Rhea

Despite the determination I see in the stances around me as the ten guards grip their hilts with shoulders set and stances ready, all take a step or two back as the vision before them snaps her jaws and a growl rumbles the ground at our feet, bringing life to her name.

The Timber Wolf exits the darkened alley, emerging into the daylight just seeping into the pours of this old, dilapidated courtyard.

They say Timber Wolves control the earth. It's said timbers crash to the ground at their bidding. You can hear an angry Timber Wolf from miles away... mostly because of the thunder of crashing trees tumbling to the ground like matchsticks.

I have no doubt it’s true. Saliva flecks between my Timber Wolf’s teeth like a crazed beast as cracks form beneath her paws in the hard packed earth and stone pathway. The cracks spiderweb, growing with each step she takes.

What would happen should she lose control here. How many would die should buildings crash into the earth?

A few soldiers turn and flee. So much for good men. At least the leader now knows who he can trust. And yet, I doubt any of them would face a visage as terrifying as this a second time.

I step out one measured step at a time, each in tune with the terror before me. Her rage dims as she sees me, mostly unharmed. The cracks in the earth become solid again, teasing my eyes and making me think myself insane. We meet halfway and her growls turn to whimpers.

I place a trembling hand on her forehead as her red gaze changes back to her ordinary amber-brown eyes. I smile and send a bundle of love her way.

“I was worried about you too, pretty girl. Jill?” I ask, relief coating my voice and making it small and breathy.

She sends an image of Jill back home at our little shack. I sag in relief.

Ran steps in to support me. My arms rest around her neck as she holds me upright. She wraps her muzzle around my back and pulls me closer. She’s shaking. I’m shaking. Tears run down my face as I realize I’m safe. I came so close to losing something, possibly many things, that are irreplaceable. That reminds me.

I step back, but keep a supportive hand on her shoulder. Mostly to keep from falling over.

“Pretty girl, these men.” I wave to the soldiers behind me. Most jaws are on the ground as they take in what I imagine is a pretty unusual sight. It's not every day a stick of a girl tames a huge, magical beast. “These men saved me. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

She eyes the men with both appreciation and apprehension. She knows as well as I how quickly guards can turn on you if they think you're taking such things as the law into your own hands.

But they saved me. “How about we show a little appreciation, aye?”

She licks my face. I just smile as I remember how much chuckling hurts.

Together, we walk over to the guards. Her shoulder brushes mine with each step, and a warmth grows in my chest at her show of support.

“It’s true.” The lead soldier with the blue eyes says as he consciously moves his hand away from the sword at his waist. “I didn’t believe tales of a giant Timber Wolf in the city. Serves me right for dismissing the tales as Folly.”

I chuckle and lean a hand against Ran’s flank to keep from swaying. She looks back at me with piercing eyes. She sniffs my forehead. A grunt escapes her.

She’s worried. So am I. But the healing powers of the bond should keep me well and help me heal, with no pesky healers trying to dive into how I can heal so quickly.

The lead guard tracks my movements with a keen gaze as he stands there in front of his men.

His eyes narrow again, but I can't read exactly what he's thinking... perhaps because he's still pretty blurry. He smiles, but it's slightly strained. Something about the man leads me to believe nothing much gets past him.

“Can I not get you to see an experienced physician? I have a discreet contact who will keep his mouth shut.” The 'or else' lingers, and I don't doubt this man's discipline on a betrayer would be severe.

I shake my head slowly, then give a wry smile no one can see. I should know better than to make sudden movements at the moment.

“No, it'll heal. I swear I'll be just fine.” I whisper.

I almost tip over in my bow of gratitude to the men, but Ran's there to give me a paw. Literally, she keeps me upright with a paw on my chest.

I look over at the guards still recovering from my bond's anger. Most keep
placid expressions, especially the more seasoned of the men, but I can still see the stress in their straight-backed posture and the white-knuckled grip on their weapons.

A few of the younger men's eyes bug out from their faces, some as pale as a sheet. It would be humorous if I didn't have to deal with being... around people. And talking to people. I just need a quiet corner to deal with the emotions rampaging in my chest before I break down in front of these seasoned guards.

But... Mom would have my hide if I didn't treat these men with the respect they deserve for being my saviors.

"Will the Timber allow you to ride her to the Healing Guild? If not, one of my men will assist you." The leader says politely.

I stiffen, unsure if that is a concealed command for 'take her to the jailhouse and never let her out'.

Besides, assist me? What does he think he's gonna go, make sure I don't fall off?

That's exactly what he's trying to do, stubborn rider. Quit being so daggum suspicious.

I jump as the voice enters my mind, completely at odds with the strangely docile and sweet white creature before me. But her tail wags, and one side of her lip tips up, flashing her saber tooth in a smirk that disappears before anyone else notices. The glint in her eye scares me. She is... terrifying.

For a minute there, I thought I'd dreamt the whole thing to keep my mind off my fear. No way can my wolf speak in my mind. Right?

There is another interesting development that clicks into place in my mind... IS MY WOLF READING MY THOUGHTS?

Ran scrapes at a lynx-like ear with a paw. Ow. Think you could screech a little quieter?

I just stare at her. Does she just expect me to drop everything and accept that an animal can speak directly to my mind and not think myself a little loopy, or—at worst—insane?

Rider, we've seen crazier things, and you dealt with that just fine. So yes, accept a voice in your ear, always obey, and we will get along just fine.

"YOU ARE MY WOLF!" I hiss.

She growls, a sound only I am close enough to hear. You are my human.

"Are you alright?" A man behind the leader asks hesitantly.

"FINE!" I snap. Whoops.

Ran lolls her tongue out, and somehow I know she's laughing at me.

I look at the man currently watching me with a mixture of apprehension and fear. I'm the one they fear? ME. The small girl, while the large Timber Wolf just sits there like an overgrown pup, but is the size of a bear. Grand.

"Sorry, long day. I'm fine." I say, adjusting my hood to be sure it's still in place.

"She needs that healer sooner rather than later." The leader with the blue eyes whispers to the almost kidnapee who has the brown eyes and glasses.

The younger man nods his emphatic agreement.

I sigh. "I'm fine, you lot. Quit lookin' at me like I'm about to fall over."

"We be looking like that because you are 'bout to fall over." I give the man with the glasses a flat stare. He grins innocently.

"I'm not going to a healer. It's nothing a little rest won't fix. But I would appreciate it if you'd round up the goons around here. They are... taking a bit of a nap."

Ran snickers.

"Taken care of." The leader man says with a very slight bow.

I look over to find most of the goons already slung over horses and a few snoring into the flanks of said horses. It can't be comfortable being tied to a saddle like a sack of overgrown potatoes. Can't say I mind.

I allow the evil grin to cross my lips, since no one can see it.

"You won't go to a healer." The leader states more than asks, his brows lowered in a glower that's kinda scary.

"No. As I said —"

"Ye'll be fine. We get it." Glasses says while adjusting said glasses.

I roll my eyes and eye the men, unsure if they will attempt to make me go with them, anyway. But as I move away, no one makes any movement to stop me.

Aria. Ran draws the word out in my mind, somehow sounding like my mother.

"Fine." I hiss.

I don't like talking to people. I'd rather fight them, if I'm honest. But these men did save me.

The leader throws some curses out that would make Mom laugh when I stumble back to the group, stopping a good two horse lengths from the men. I don't think the man is aiming them at me, but more the general situation... I hope.

“Is there nothing more I can do?” The leader asks, still seeming a bit peeved.

The offer surprises me, especially considering my less than cordiality the past few minutes. “I'm... honored... at your concern, but no. I would like to offer you something instead.”

I draw out a horn, unhooking it from beneath my cape. It's small and made of ivory, but its sound is undeniable. I've used it in the past to call Ran... but with how I feel her now, I don't think I'm gonna need it any longer.

My chest hurts to part with it, but I might need an ally... and these men haven't tried to arrest or stab me yet. Already better than most of the guards we've met in the past.

“Blow three times on this. Repeat every fifteen seconds. If Ran is within hearing distance, we will answer your call. You heard my cries for help and came to my aid. You showed courage and compassion. So will we if you have need of us. We reserve the right to revoke this honor, should we deem you unworthy of our help.” Or if you set up an ambush on me. Then you're dead, I think, but don't say.

I bow at the waist and offer the man before me the small ivory horn.

He takes it reverently. Ran supports me when I tilt coming back up. My hand rests on her shoulder again.

The leader takes an experimental blow. It's humorous when nothing comes out that he can hear, but Ran rubs her ears with her paws to escape the noise.

“Do it farther away than that. It’s silent to human ears, but any animal can hear it at long distances.” I explain, amusement coating my exhausted voice.

To highlight my point, dogs start yipping from a couple streets over and some cats let out caterwauls. The soldier shakes his head in disbelief. Or perhaps shock, I can't quite say.

“Thank you, Guardian. In return, the aid of the Knights is also at your disposal. Should you need us, find any station within the city. I will spread the word that you shall be aided should you have need.” He goes down on a knee and places his hand upon his heart, rising and tapping his heart with his fist three times in succession, as if pledging to a cause.

My eyes narrow as my heart pounds in my chest. I watch the men with greater concern than before. Ran pulls her lips back in response to my agitation, and the leader raises his hands in supplication, face betraying no emotion.

“You. You are not normal guards. I should’ve guessed, but I suppose I can blame the blow on the head for being slow. I don't want your service. You can keep it. I have enough to keep up with. And you have enough with tryin' to keep this region in line.”

He rises with a smirk. His eyes twinkle as he sketches a bow. “Sir Hans, Colonel to Knights of Honour, at your service. It would be gravely dishonorable for us should you not accept. Besides, you’ve done our job quite well the last couple months—” cheeky fellow, “—imagine, wolf-friend, what we should be able to do if we work together for Risia? Besides, we need job security, don’t we, men?”

They all moan in good-natured agreement.

I just want out of this situation. This was bad before... but now? This is a right fine pile of horse manure. He's seen my face. He can pick me out of a crowd, put out a poster for my arrest, or even petition the king to exile me and my family.

I must make friends with the most feared knights in Irisia. The thought curdles my stomach. A sigh puffs my lips.

Why me?

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Rhea Bring

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Comments(13)
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CyclopsSlayer ago

Thanks for the chapter!

One of the Knights refers to her as 'guardian' without being introduced as such. A bit of accidental foreshadowing or something?

    Rhea Bring ago

    Mmm, ye shall see in time. Not accidental this time, I assure you :-)

    Thanks, as always, for the comment! Makes my day every time.

    ~Rhea

      CyclopsSlayer ago

      Okay, not an accident, but that does beg the question, Why isn't it an accident?

      Rhea Bring ago

      Eh, sounds like I'm missing something.

      The reason it's there is a minor spoiler that expands as the story unveils.

      Why do you believe I should change it?

      CyclopsSlayer ago

      Why? She doesn't know the Knight, the Knight doesn't know her.
      If some random person were to walk up to you on the street and address you as Colonel, and you have never been in the military yet, you could ignore it, but why would they say that? Most people would deny it and correct the random, or think them crazy and hurry away... 

      Now, if they had said something like "You have the makings of a Guardian in you..." that would be fine. Is the Knight prescient, maybe an oracle told them "...you'll meet a Guardian today..."

      Guardian is obviously an important rank or term in this culture, so would it be thrown about casually?

      You see where I am coming from?

      Rhea Bring ago

      Ahhhh, yes. I was coming at this from a totally different angle.

      So, I'm going to put this in a spoiler box, but it should vastly help. Also, it explains much about Ran and Aria's background for the last few years from a writer's POV, so don't read if you're spoiler sensitive (like me!).

      Guardian is not a rank, but a title. It's alluded to in the beginning chapters, and again, expanded on later. Perhaps with this much confusion, I'll go back and put something about Aria thinking that 'The Guardian is a prestigious title for what little we do and highly annoying to boot,' or some such.

      Aria and Ran have been protecting innocents in Risia for a while at this point. The people who were rescued by the two called them The Guardians of Risia. It kinda stuck. The rumor mill around the city spoke of a girl in a hood and a Timber Wolf, so they are easily recognized and Aria wouldn't find this out of place in such a conversation with Knights.

      Does that help from a reader's perspective? Especially should I go back and put it in at an earlier chapter?

      Thank you for this, as it helps me see from a different perspective on something I had a one track mind on.

      ~Rhea

      CyclopsSlayer ago

      See, now this brings thing into perspective,

      Aria and Ran have been protecting innocents in Risia for a while at this point. The people who were rescued by the two called them The Guardians of Risia. It kinda stuck. The rumor mill around the city spoke of a girl in a hood and a Timber Wolf, so they are easily recognized and Aria wouldn't find this out of place in such a conversation with Knights.

      Now that makes things clearer. BUT this is vital info that the reader needs to make sense of things, Aria&Ren's past is almost totally lacking in exposition. It almost feels like we, the reader, were started on book 2.

      Rhea Bring ago

      This makes sense. Thank you once more for explaining your side. I apologize for me previous pig-head. So much for thinking I had it figured

      Chap 1 underwent a major edit thanks to both your feedback and another helpful good samaritan, so the issue should now be fixed.

      Thanks again! You have been very helpful in making Aria & Ran's story better.

      ~Rhea

Daniel Z ago

Edit suggestion

Quite being 》Quit being

Armorien ago

Oh, it's as good as I remember! I look forward to continuing it~

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