Highly Commended Story - Guardian of the Wolves
“Guardian of the Wolves” by Lena Rotzer, Gd-Schule, Bratsch, Switzerland, is the Highly Commended story in the junior category of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2019.
Lena is a 12 year old who loves animals of all kinds, especially horses. Her hobbies include karate, riding, reading and writing. Her ambition to be an author flared when in Year 1 she had to write a story and the teacher loved it. Her stories are often through the eyes of an animal, and she likes to channel her thoughts and feelings through her stories. She also wants to become a vet. Lena’s favourite books are the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.
Guardian of the Wolves
I reached out, my hand almost touching his fur, my heart hammering in my chest as my fingertips grazed his quivering snout. Suddenly there was a bang. Then an inhuman scream that seemed to freeze my breath. A body hit the floor. The wolf was elegant, even in death. His ebony black eyes, through which had once twinkled stars, remained milky white, blank and unstaring. A single tear rolled down my cheek, falling. Falling like rain does, onto a lone tree or an isolated bench. I watched as it fell, evaporating as soon as it hits the wolf’s body. “You are the guardian of the wolves…” somebody whispered, the words sounding like song as they echoed around the clearing.
With a jolt I was awake. My head was thundering with the adrenaline that I still felt. I stood up, unconsciously brushing off the blanket. Guardian of the wolves, the phrase fell oddly upon my ears. I leaned my head against the window, the cool glass soothing the pain that was building in my forehead. Then like a sleepwalker, I took a step forward. Without knowing where I was going, only, that I had to be there. As I reached our front door and my hand closed on our brass knocker, I suddenly knew what I had to do. Strangely, I had always felt a connection to wolves, their underappreciated beauty, and a powerful kind of elegance man could only dream of. I let my hand fall, imagining the soft touch I had felt during the dream. The dream. It meant something, I was sure of it. Danger, the word flashed through my mind. The wolves… in danger? Though the answer came to me as though it had already been there: Hunters. Anger cursed through me like wildfire. People are scared of wolves, though they never stray to our village, and what they are scared of, they kill. I had to get there, fast. Shivering slightly in my too big pyjamas I started running. I sprinted, because the wolves’ lives depended on it. I tore through the forest, to the place where I had sat yesterday, observing them from behind a tree.
I reached the tree, my lungs screaming in protest, as my legs buckled out from underneath me. But I had to go on. I risked a glance from behind the tree, the wolves were there, and they were safe. The cubs were happily wrestling each other, their mothers watching on with anxiety. The older wolves lying down, glaring sleepily if the cubs came too close. The leader, a dark grey, almost black, was alert. His ears swivelled back and forth so frequently it made you dizzy, and his eyes whispered fear. I watched mesmerised, all seemed calm. Yet I sensed danger, then drunken, gleeful voices reached my ears. I stepped cautiously out from behind the tree. The leader sniffed me hesitantly, and, seeming to decide that he had bigger problems on his mind. He only gave a low bark as I stepped back into the shadows, waiting. They were coming. I prepared myself, but what could one do against so many? “Help me” I whispered, the moonlight flooding my pale face. A beat of wings, the sound of an angel-sweet voice, I’m not sure if I heard it or just imagined it. The wolves howled as one, baring their teeth. A man stepped into the clearing, dagger ready in his hand. He had a poorly appearance, he was unshaven, his face hidden among tangles of wild black hair. His clothes were ragged and tattered. His eyes flashed dangerously, and he struck an oddly impressive figure against the midnight-black sky. He was a hunter.
I leaned heavily against the tree and as I pushed to right myself, I stumbled. His head turned, his eyes widened as he acknowledged my presence. Fear was creeping into my bones and I stood rooted to the spot. He stared at me intently before saying in a hoarse voice: “They are ferocious animals, they deserve to be killed”. “Fear of something does not mean it deserves to be killed” I said softly. The man laughed madly, cackling: “You think it is out of fear I do this? Wolves have, over the centuries gained themselves a reputation for beauty and power they don’t deserve. And I, whom people dislike for I have neither, deserve it more than anybody” He spat on the ground. The moonlight was filtering through the trees and for a moment his face was contorted with a look of madness. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw the wolves, cubs cowering beside their mothers, others were ready to fight, their hackles raised, ready to pounce. The leader came out of the shadows, piercing the man with a look that any other would have quailed under. Then he leaped, he leaped so swiftly, that one could only see a dark blur against the backdrop of stars. The hunter dodged it, reacting with an instinct nobody could have guessed, stepping aside so quickly, that the wolf crumpled to the floor. He stood up again, shaking his head of silvery-black fur and charged at him. He raised the dagger that had before been harmlessly hanging limp at his side, and when the wolf approached him, slashed it through the air, piercing him. The wolf howled, dropping to the floor. There he lay, panting, closing his eyes in defeat. A slight breeze rippled through his fur, I saw the hunter raise the dagger again, a look of wild pleasure on his face. The wolf’s breaths came out ragged, as if he knew what was coming.
I dived between them, as he bent down. I threw out my arms, protecting the wolf, and he brought down the dagger ferociously. I closed my eyes, ready for the hit, but it never came. I felt a powerful gust of wind pass over me, and the hunter was thrown to the ground. After a moment, a look of fear passed over his face and then he sat up and darted away. I stood up shaking. I looked up and saw a strange creature I had only heard of in stories. An angel. She looked at me, and smiled. “Why? How…” I spluttered. “Only something as noble and selfless as what you have done, risking your own life could have called an angel to earth” She said, her musical voice echoing in the clearing. The wolf looked at me, his eyes full of pain and suffering. I knelt down beside him, and a single tear rolled onto his bloodstained fur. The angel, her gaze full of sadness and understanding, passed her hand over his wound and he was instantly healed. “You have been given a gift” she whispered, “You are the guardian of the wolves…” She faded and disappeared from sight. The wolf stood up and walked over to me. He put his paws on my shoulder and leaned his head against me as if to hug me. As my hair blew around in the wind, I put my arms around him, to hug him back.