By EM Bennu
“I know you have heard the legends. They are true, every single one of them.” An old hermit called the Seer peered across the fire at the two boys.
“The one about the pirates and the Lady?” Haren, aged no more than nine seemed enthralled.
“True, every word of it.” The Seer nodded.
“What about the one about the little girl and the corpser?” Dreu, Haren’s twin crossed his arms in disbelief.
“That one too, the Dark Wolf protects this island and has for generations.”
“Where did he come from?”
“There are stories, some say he isn’t a wolf at all, that he is the last of a race of Lycan, from another world entirely. Some say he is a cursed man with no words left in him, only action.”
“But he is good right? Not evil like the stories about Mondain or Minax?” Haren licked his lips and peered around at the dark forest.
“Of course. The Dark Wolf is a protector, a companion without his pairing.”
“Seems lonely, out in the forest all alone. No friends, no family.” Dreu spoke.
“So you believe the stories now, do you Dreu?” the Seer smiled.
“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want to sleep out here alone, forever and ever.” The evening air blew in and Dreu shivered.
“You boys should better go back to town, it is late and your parents will worry.” The Seer stood and kicked dirt over the fire. “Off with you now!”
The two boys scampered into the direction of Serpent’s Hold along the rocky beach. Haren took the lead, driving a path over the slick rocks.
“That old man is crazy, Windrunner isn’t real.” Dreu chided his brother in a boastful sort of bravery.
“That isn’t what you were saying just a minute ago!” his brother answered back.
“I was just being polite, that old Seer is full of stories, and I bet not one of them is true. He just tells them so we keep bringing him apples and that ale you stole from Father.”
“Whatever!” Haren scoffed.
The wilds of the jungled forest around the city of Serpent’s Hold held few secrets, the city occupied much of the land, with very little room for else. The rocky beach offered no fertile ground. The hermit therefor had no fields to pilfer, no wild edibles, very little small game. He was utterly dependent on the charity of others; Dreu was correct that it was the Seer’s stories that kept his belly from being hollow.
“Stop!” Dreu shouted, but was too late.
His brother stopped cold, face to face with a pair of panthers. The two sleek grey cats circled the boys flicking their tails, hungry.
“Back away slowly.” Dreu whispered.
For every slow step backward the pair took, the cats advanced two. The two yelled for help, but were still too far from the city to be heard and the Seer was long gone.
Haren tripped over a vine and fell backwards to the ground. Dreu bolted and ran toward the city.
The two cats separated, one in chase, the other dropped low, ready to pounce. As Haren slowly began to right himself the panther sprung toward him only to be answered by a massive blackened wolf who took the cat between its jaws and shook the life out of it, tossing the corpse against a tree.
“Windrunner?” Haren whispered.
The large wolf snorted and gave chase toward the other panther. He seemed in the eyes of Haren to float more than run, the speed and deft course caught up with the panther and jumped over it, putting itself between Dreu and the danger.
Windrunner let out a low growl and the panther skulked, lowering its head in submission. The massive dark wolf turned and nosed under the boy till Dreu hung onto his back. The two returned, and Haren joined his brother. The two boys atop the massive dark wolf of Legend, Windrunner.
They did not yet know it but their ride of terror and fright would be one of many, for the lonely Windrunner was ever on the search for a companion of his own.
The two boys returned to their beds late, knowing none would believe their tale. But in the forest an old hermit smiled, and peered out into the dark toward the city.
“Good job old friend, well done Windrunner…”