Highly Commended Story - Into The Woods
“Into The Woods” by Amanda Hernandez, Homeschooled, USA, is the Highly Commended story in the senior category of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2018.
Amanda Hernandez is a 14 years old homeschooled 9th grade student. She loves writing, painting, and photography. She wants to become an author and share her ideas with the world.
Into The Woods
‘Never go into the woods.’
That was what her mother said as she set dinner.
‘Never go into the woods.’
That was what her father said as he pulled on his suit.
‘Never go into the woods.’
That was what her grandmother said each day.
‘I should’ve never gone into the woods.’
Ruby thought as the dark trees hovered over. She pulled her red cloak and wood basket closer to her body.
She licked her lips.
A large cave hovered over her as the sun slowly began to set. Her feet ached from the days walk through the dark woods.
Ruby’s family was never afraid of coyotes or rabid animals in the forest. They were only scared of one thing, the lycans.
Rulers of the woods. They didn’t take kindly to humans passing on their territory, yet she was headed straight towards them.
‘For grandmother,’ she reminded herself, moving closer to the entrance of the cave.
Ruby didn’t get the chance to enter. Never got the chance to take another step. The only thing she got was a low, growl directly from behind.
She slowly turned, took a deep breath. Three large grey wolves stood on edge, slowly prowling towards her. She didn’t move, but slowly forced her mouth to open.
She pushed out words.
She had to.
Before they killed her.
“I have business with the king.”
The wolves snorted and bared their fangs. They stalked around her.
The first gave a loud snort with a swift head motion, as if to say, ‘Follow us.’
She was pushed into a dark room.
Ruby stared at the marble throne, half expecting a wolf to be sitting on it, but only found a young man who seemed like he hadn’t washed in weeks.
Hundreds of men, or wolves, stood hunched behind him, ready to attack.
Slowly he spoke after moments of silence. “Please give me a reason as to why I should not kill you right now.” he rumbled.
She cleared her throat. “My name is Ruby, and I’ve come with a favor.”
The Lycan king chuckled. “A human wishes to negotiate?”
“My grandmother is very ill. An illness is slowly taking her life, and-” The wolf king cut her off.
“And you need the magic of werewolf curing.” He mused, knowing it was true.
“She’ll die soon without it.”
There was a long silence. “There is a...herb that may be able to help you.”
The king stared at her before motioning to a wolf nearby. Minutes later a young man came back with the same colored hair and eyes as the wolf. He dropped a small vile into the king’s hand.
He raised it up. “This is what you need.” Ruby moved to grab it, eager to save her ill grandmother, but she froze once two guards growled. “But, it is very rare, and I believe it deserves something else in return.”
This wasn’t a surprise. Lycans never did anything for free. Especially for humans.
Cautiously, she held out the basket. Sweet treats filled it to the brim. The king’s nostrils flared at the scent.
“Perhaps this will do?”
His eyes twinkled. Lycans thirst for human sweets were unbearable. They would do almost anything for a taste of the things they rarely had.
“Bring it.” The basket was taken to the king. He grabbed the cookies and shoved them in his mouth like a little kid.
Ruby had trouble holding back a laugh.
His eyes glittered but he stopped once he realized she was still there. He coughed awkwardly and pulled himself straighter.
He coughed. “Well, I believe that may be a suitable payment. If you had brought gold, I would have had to turn you away. We are rather wealthy under the earth. But, before you leave, please answer me this question, Little Ruby.”
“Depends on the question.” she replied.
The king stood. “Is that fear I sense that has caused you to shiver beneath that woolen cloak?” He stalked closer to her, his form getting bigger and bigger as he approached her. Soon, he was only inches away from her.
He saw a flash of fear in her eyes. “Oh my! Have I frightened you, Little Ruby?” He touched her hair lightly. “Perhaps… you think the big bad wolf will want a taste of the little human that has wandered into his domain?” His face was inches from her own, eyes glinting with mischief.
She gripped a cold hilt out of her coat. Suddenly she swung open a large knife and held it to his chest.
“I wouldn’t. My father is a huntsman and he’s taught me well.”
Growls erupted around the room, but she held the knife closer to the man.
The king glanced at her knife, then back at her. He chuckled, moving back. “Very good. Very, very good.” He dropped the vile onto her palm. “I cannot say that you are not worthy of this. You have very good reflexes, and courage I must admit, you are willing to risk your life in place for another.”
“Wouldn’t you have done the same?”
“Unfortunately I can’t say I would. And your gift was rather… tasty.” he licked his lips. “I hope you may be able to bring them again. Once upon a time.”
She moved back as the wolves parted, smiling. “Perhaps I shall visit. Once upon a time. But that will have to be after my mother’s scolding.”
She turned to leave, as he called, “Farewell Little Ruby.”
She glanced back. “Farewell.”
The month flew by. The dark trees turned bright colors. Ruby pulled her red cape back on. She gripped the basket tightly.
She spun on her heel, smiling as her grandmother came into view. The old woman smiled, eyes twinkling. She was healthy once again.
“I’m afraid I am.”
“Going back into the woods?”
Ruby smiled. “Just delivering some cookies to some friends.”
“I will. This isn’t my first time going into the woods.”