Traveler: Storyteller Tales: There Wolf

            Once on the school lawn, the policeman did not find the minister he expected.  Instead, he found a young woman who was probably too old to be a senior in the high school.  She might have been one of the young teachers except she was wearing the strangest outfit.  It was all chain mail and leather and the sword and knife at her back looked a bit too real for a costume.

            “What are you doing?”  The policeman asked.  He considered asking who are you?  He also considered saying run for your life; but he settled on what are you doing?  She was kneeling, looking at the grass.

            “Hush.”  The woman spoke sharply before she looked up and softened her tone.  “Charley.  I’m tracking the beast.  Hunting and tracking is what Princesses do best,” the Princess said.  She stood.  “This way.”

            “Wait a minute.”  Charley stopped her before she took a step.  “This is dangerous work.  I can’t risk a civilian.”

            The Princess just smiled and held out her hand.  “You lead the way.”

            Charley looked at her.  He looked at the ground, let his eyes wander into the dark, looked at the ground again and back at her.  “Which way?”

            The Princess smiled a bit more and took the man’s free hand.  Of course, Charley was not about to let the gun out of his other hand. 

###

            “I don’t get it,” the Princess whispered.  “We found where it climbed the tree and scooted out on that long branch to drop to the ground some distance from the tree.”

            “A good way to avoid visual pursuit,” Charley countered.

            “Then we found when it hit the school driveway and turned up the driveway because asphalt doesn’t show claw prints.”

            “So the wolf is clever.”

            “But that is what I don’t get.  Werewolves are not clever.  They are insane killing machines, people driven mad by the transformation.”

            “How do you know?”  The Princess just stared at the man until he spoke again.  “Well, I’ve hunted all my life but I never could have tracked the beast in the dark.  How did you figure it jumped the hedge from the driveway?”

            “Only way to disguise it’s exit from the asphalt without showing which way it went.”  She pointed to the claw marks in the mud where the beast landed.  “There is something different going on here,” she said, and she pulled her sword with her left hand and her long knife with her right.

            “Southpaw?”

            “Hush.”

            They walked forward toward the woods, but when they were still a few feet off, the Princess halted them.  Something struck her and she spoke at some volume, and just one word.

            “Amuna.”  She thought to add a note of assurance.  “You can come out.  We won’t hurt you.”

            They heard the growl of warning before they saw the wolf.  It was not the same one that attacked the men from the porch, but only Glen knew that and the Princess said nothing about it because she was no longer there.  Junior had taken her place in the dark, but since he was dressed in the same armor as the Princess, an outfit that adjusted automatically to this new person, Charley did not notice at first.

            When the wolf poked its head out from the trees, Charley lifted his gun hand.  He  panicked when he realized the gun was no longer there.  The wolf snarled and drooled altogether too much for him.

            “Amuna,” Junior called, and Charley turned his head for a second in surprise at the male voice while Junior fell to one knee.  Suddenly there was some light in that part of the forest.  The male, half-changed back into a man was leaning up against a tree.  The wound in his shoulder appeared to be healing rapidly, but he was still weak.  The female had not moved a step since they first saw her head, and it looked like, for some reason, she could not move.  Charley could see her struggling, but to no avail.

            “Amuna.”  Junior called again.  “My name is Amun, just like yours.”  The little wolf came out from behind her mother.  As small as she was, she looked vicious, but sort of cute at the same time.  Mother wolf struggled, but could not break whatever had her stuck to the ground. 

            Father wolf was still too weak to interfere.  As the little wolf came toward the man’s arms, though, she transformed back into a little girl.  The male and female transformed as well and they all became clothed as they changed.  Junior thought that was best.

            “Hello,” the little girl said as Junior picked her up.  She spoke in a language so strange, apart from reading her mind, Junior himself had to pause for a second to grasp the word.  When he did, he responded in the same language with a nod to the police officer so Charley would hear it all in English.

            “Tell me.”  That was all Junior had to say as he handed the girl back to her mother.  The man came forward, all healed, and fell to his knees.

            “I was body servant to Count Ruthen-Bai and as such, my wife and child were able to travel with the camp followers whenever the army moved out.  When the Duke and his Princess escaped my master by going into another world, this world, the Count insisted I follow and kill him.  I refused.”  The man looked down as Junior nodded and the woman picked up the story.

            “The Count sent soldiers after the Duke, but he was angry.  He fetched us from the camp, cursed us with the wolf disease and forced us into this place.  We have wandered now these few months and four times when the moon has turned full for three nights we become as you have seen us.”

            The man interrupted.  “We tried not to hurt anyone.  Please believe me.  But the wolf is so strong and the hunger so great.”  He began to weep and the little girl reached out from her mother’s arms to include him in her hug.

            “So let the curse be ended,” Junior said, knowing full well they were telling the truth.  He turned to the policeman.  “I need to take them home, back to their own world.”

            “But, murder?”  Charley did not know what else to say.

            “No, I don’t think so.  I think it was a pack of wild dogs, and they have all been caught now and put down.”  As soon as Junior said that, everyone thought that, except Missus Patterson who was looking forward to getting out of the hospital.  He let her remember, but she never said anything as long as she lived.

            At that moment, Junior disappeared with the young family.  He found a big, black wild dog that had just died somewhere in the Andes, inserted the policeman’s bullet and laid it at Charley’s feet.  Ten seconds later, Glen came running up from behind the policeman.

            “Sorry,” Glen apologized.  I got lost in the dark.

            “Forget it.  It’s all over.”  Charlie pointed his gun at the dog.  He looked at Glen and scoffed.  “Werewolf!”  Glen shrugged, sheepishly, and within an hour he wondered what on this Earth possessed him to even suggest such a thing in the first place.

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