Of Wolves and Red Riding Hoods

She drew herself within, her arms locked tight around her. She looked up at the moon to howl, only to find that she no longer had a voice.

She couldn’t call out when the wolves came for her. And that would have been the end of things, except the moon intervened.

“Leave us”, she finally said, her voice shaking as much as her body.

“No”, said the Moon.

“I can handle this”, she said, before putting all the wolves to sleep, and then collapsing to the ground herself, exhausted.

He walked in quietly then, even as the moon drew panicked circles around her.

The wolves began to wake up just as he had hoisted her unconscious form on to his shoulder.

They growled at him as he made his way out of the lair, holding on to her firmly, until he finally snapped.

“Mine”, he growled.

And they slunk away quietly into the night.

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Waking Wendy – I

The storm colored sky stretched out into eternity, as two lone figures stood beneath it, the only sound above the waves of the distant ocean being that of the wind whipping the edges of their long coats against the rustling uncut grass.

“When will things change?” asked the girl in gray.

The boy shook his head, letting multicolored drops of rain fall about them, “When you wake up.”

Her wide eyed gaze sought out the distant horizon, full of only the unknown. “Are you sure?”, she asked, biting her lip.

“Yes”, he smiled, before leaning closer, “Wake up, Wendy..”

~~~

The building wasn’t that tall, but four floors is still high enough to kill. Especially when you add in the 2 feet of the railing and the ledge, said the slurring voice in her head, and she burst into a fit of giggles, her waif like form shaking in mirth on the railing on which she was precariously perched. The moon looked on disapprovingly, but she drank to his health until even he forgave her, smiling reluctantly at her antics. After all, there is no dark side in the moon, really. And she gave him something to watch.

Alas, the watchmen have seen everything. And the moon is the oldest of them all. He soon tired of her childish games. It was time for something harder. And with magical dawns and falling stars and lighted paths, he led her astray into the wild.

“What do you want from me?”, she cried out suddenly, tired of the changing ground beneath her feet.

“I need you to wake up”, shouted back the moon. “Can’t you see what’s happening around you??”

But she only cried out louder, and shut her eyes tighter. She knew what the Moon wanted to show her, and she did not wish to see.

“Wake up, Wendy”, he whispered, almost lovingly, before withdrawing, once more, into silence.

~~~

He then spent years cleverly shaping her path, leading her slowly towards the palace of a dragon. For, even though there is no dark side in the moon, really; Matter of fact, it’s all dark.

Luckily for her, it wasn’t a particularly old dragon, for those are as weary as they are wise. Of course, this particular one was a little weary and wise himself, but he could not help it; all dragons must be.

“Why have you come here?”, asked the Dragon in his menacing voice, towering over the girl who had long shed her gray robes for black. “I’ve always wanted to meet a Dragon” she said, reverentially. “But, how did you know where to find me?”, asked the Dragon, surprised. “I heard your voice across the ocean a hundred years ago”, said the girl, “and I’ve been looking for you ever since”. The dragon studied her incredulously before swooping down and pulling her on to himself. In ecstacy, she watched the sky change colors and the clouds float on besides them, as they flew over towns and castles, showing her the World she had almost stopped believing in. The moon looked on in jealousy, but the girl had eyes only for the dragon.

But the sky had touched her with its ink, long before she had had any choice in the matter. And now, she was forever haunted by the dark. “Why won’t this stop?”, she cried into the dragon’s chest, his wing locked protectively around her.

“You know what you have to do”, he whispered soothingly, wiping the tears falling from her eyes.

“Wake up, Wendy..”

~~

But she was finally happy, and it didn’t seem fair to have to wake up just when things were getting better. She adorned the dragon’s head with flowers, and forbade him from ever speaking of it again. Of course Dragons don’t listen, but she was clever enough to remember that whether good or evil, they are creatures of their word. So she offered an exchange. That was how he got the third part of her fragmented heart. And as they flew higher and higher into the sun, she began to burn. Until the dragon noticed the edges of her hair were on fire, that is.

He immediately plummeted to the ground, crashing into a group of trees in his hurry to get her down to Earth safely. She tumbled off his back into the grass beneath, laughing. “That was amazing!” She raised her arms up, towards the Dragon. “Let’s do that again.” But the Dragon was saddened by her burning cloak, even when he saw glimpses of the red dress she had on underneath her burnt and tattered armor.

They’re only clothes, love, she wanted to say.

But night was falling, and before they knew it, winter was here. The Dragon was often gone for hours hunting, or flying, or doing whatever it is that dragons do. She did not know. All she knew was that when he was gone, she was cold. And she hated bringing it up, because she knew it made him think of the sun. And when he got like that, she didn’t know what he was after. So, she left him alone, and during one particularly frosty spell, she slowly froze into a picturesque statue.

The Dragon didn’t return for months, so he never even found out. In fact, it was quite undragonlike of him to do so in the first place, but he needed the thrill of the hunt a little more than he may ever needed her. It was a simple calculation really.

At least that’s what the village children say. But what do they knew? They’re idiots. Especially the young boys who liked to make faces at her frozen statue as she stood next to a shrine, painfully aware of every passing lifetime. He’ll come back, she whispered to herself fervently, her thoughts icy cold inside her mind.

But he didn’t.. At least not in time. And one night, a few of the boys hopped over the little fence that surrounded her in order to get a better look at her. She managed to slip away from them, only to fall to the ground and shatter into a million pieces. The boys scattered back to their homes, even as she slowly melted in the rays of the rising sun.

The Sun, she remembered fondly, and then closed her eyes, sliding down into a passing river that was making its way towards the sea. The Sea where the Dragon went hunting… She sat up at once, all the pieces of her focusing themselves into who she needed to be.

“Why don’t you look for a wizard, dear? You look like you need one.” called out an old lady from a passing boat.

The girl began to laugh again, and her tattered robes fell off her shoulders, only to reveal a beautiful red gown that now hung loosely from her fragile form. “No ordinary wizard can help me, old mother”, she cried, even as the river tried to soothe her “Can’t you see? I’ve been cursed by a Dragon.” The old woman turned and  hastened the boat away. For everyone knows how ancient the magic of a dragon is. And no one wanted to involve themselves in this tale.

The Dragon found her floundering about in the Sea, surprised to see her oddly rearranged form swimming in the cold winter sea. She raised up her trembling arms, and the dragon lifted her into the air, gently gathering her broken pieces that fell back into the reluctant river. “He’s not going to hurt me, River” she said, so tired that she had begun to slur, “Well, not much. But I’m not that weak!” The Dragon looked at her flowing gown and growled softly at the scent of the village boys about her.

“Why didn’t you come back?”, she finally asked, her voice a trembling whisper. “I never left”, he replied, quietly. She didn’t believe him, but pieces of her began to, and after years and years of icy solitude, it was simply too much to take, and she burst into tears. “What do you want from me?”, she cried.

He growled at her again and transformed into a wizard before her very eyes. She took a wary step back even as he smiled at her, wolfishly.

“You know what you have to do, little girl”, said the Wizard-who-used-to-be-a-Dragon as he moved in closer towards her, somehow so much more menacing than he had ever been as a Dragon.

“What?”, she whispered, her breath warm against his cheek.

He kissed her for a moment, before pulling away and cursing out reluctantly, “Wake up, Wendy.”

Storms and Cottages

He woke up with a start upon hearing the heavy wooden door to the cottage swing open, drenched in sweat, and his hair all disheveled, yet instinctively reaching out for the sword. Before remembering that he had lent it to her.

It was hers in the first place, said a niggling voice at the back of his mind.

“It’s just me”, she whispered to him, the quietness of the cottage hidden away from the snowstorm outside suddenly too much to bear. Her eyes drifted to his slowly healing bruises and he looked away, scowling. He waited until she had knelt by the fire to stoke it before risking another glance at her. She appeared alright, he thought, as she placed the sword beside the door.

It was much too large for her anyway.

“Why are you smiling?”, she asked, curious. He blinked at her blankly for a second, before giving her a curt nod and gingerly laying himself down again, even as she turned to unpack the medicinal herbs and plants that she had been out collecting, wary yet hopeful that they would suffice.

“Did you run into any trouble?”, he asked, and her hands shook as she remembered the horrors of a nearby village she had stumbled upon, terrorized by a pack of vicious dogs, and their even crueler masters. They had followed her into the forest,barking and laughing as she had stumbled along with the village’s orphans. A year ago, they would have hunted her down and killed her, laughing as their beasts tore her apart. But the year had been a long one, and it had changed her.

Her voice was steady when she turned to answer him, “Just some hungry dogs. But I took care of it.”

The smile on her face was a new one.

One that hadn’t been there before. And he didn’t know what it meant.

Nevertheless, he nodded in a way she had begun to interpret as relieved, and in turn, she was glad that the darkening evening kept the blood spattered sword hidden from his sight. At least until she had had the time to polish it, and feel the sharp edge of its steel, light against her skin. Just once more, and then she would return it.

She was only its guardian. It was time to let go.

He watched her gaze drift to the sword by the door, eyes full of emotions he couldn’t begin to decode. He wondered if she had been living by this underground lake for the entire year that she had been missing. He thought of telling her how he had looked for her. How far and low he had searched. How desperately he had hoped and prayed.. How hollow everything in the world had suddenly seemed to be. How he had learnt what it meant to be drowning in despair, feeling insanity clambering on to the sides of his mind; the absence of her, a raw wound that never learned to heal.

But he was not the same.

And, neither was she.

By choosing exile, by choosing this, by leaving when the war broke out, she had made a choice. Abandoning him, but also saving him from having to make any sort of choice himself. They would have never trusted him as long as she was around. Her hair was too wild, and her skin wasn’t pale enough. She would never be one of them. He would have had to make a choice..

“I can mend your weapon, you know”, he said quietly, and watched as she whirled around to face him, body taut and disbelieving, eyes boring into his, searching him for any sign of deception, or doubt.

He showed none.

“You”, she whispered. “You can fix Estel?”

He nodded, then pushed himself off the bed, swaying as his feet hit the ground. She rushed forward, her small cold hands reaching around him, steadying him as he gritted his teeth and shook his head. The Winter had hit him hard. He would need some time to recover before going ahead with his plans.

He glanced down at her worried expression, before letting his eyes drift to where her pale hands rested against his bruised skin, causing her to blush and look away. He leaned forward and closed his eyes, taking in the scent of the forest from her hair and clothes, trying to figure out where exactly they were, and how he would get them out of there. His eyes snapped open and fixed themselves on hers as he smelt the blood on her clothes, not her own, and that on her scratched and swollen wrist, her own.

She looked back at him in a confused mixture of fear and raw, aching desire.

“I can fix Estel”, he said.