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Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #2304693
An orphan's journey (under 1000 words)
The frosted moon shone through the bare shivering trees and glistened on his fur.

I stood breathlessly, trying to remember if it was recommended to avoid eye contact with a wolf. His glowing crystal blue eyes were mesmerizing. I felt as though he was more than an animal. Then I heard his voice, rough and rugged,

"Follow me."

The wolf turned and started off through the underbrush, and I trailed after it. We came to a clearing where a circle of eleven wolves sat around a boulder. The one who had led me there took his place among them.

One wolf, larger than the others and grizzled with age, spoke to me.

"I am the Wolf King. This is my land. We were having a meeting here when a scout reported an interloper. I sent for you. Explain your presence in this sacred forest."

I shuffled awkwardly in my worn-out shoes and patched dress. I should probably have been terrified to be in the midst of twelve talking wolves, but it seemed like the most normal thing in the world, somehow.

"I don't have a home anymore," I began. "My parents are gone and I have nowhere to go… I thought maybe I could live in these woods."

The Wolf King perked up his ears.

"No home? A young child like you needs a home and family. I will offer you community among us if you can abide by our rules."

I considered the matter carefully. I was just twelve years old; my father had died in the Gold Rush and my mother died of yellow fever. I wasn't about to do anything risky.

"I fear our diets aren't compatible," I told him. "I couldn't kill animals and eat them raw, or watch you hunting and eating. I'm not that kind."

"What made you think you could survive in the woods, then?" The Wolf King's eyes seemed to twinkle.

"I thought I could eat roots and berries and fish, like a bear."

"The bears aren't the friendliest around here," said the king. "They wouldn't approve of a human in their territory."

"What am I to do?"

A younger, brown wolf with golden streaks in his fur, sitting directly to the right of the king, spoke up.

"Your majesty, there is an elderly lady who lives on the far side of these woods. She may be willing to take the child in."

"You're right, Spark. She was rejected by her village under suspicion of being a witch," the king explained to me, "but she is merely a woman who lives in harmony with the earth. I think you'd appreciate her."

Spark offered to escort me the many miles to her house. As we picked through the cold, dense, bristly forest he recounted ancient lore about the ways of the wolf pack.

The sun was just beginning to rise when we reached the westernmost edge of the wilderness. We stopped at a scenic overlook, and I saw far below a little cottage with a white picket fence. Pink climbing roses grew on it, and a row of sunflowers towered over the other side.

"My journey is complete," Spark said. "Beyond the lady's house it is unsafe for a wolf to be found. Take courage, go and tell her your story." He bid me farewell and plunged back into the undergrowth.

I trudged wearily down into the valley towards the cottage. When I arrived I found the gate unlatched, hanging ajar. Her yard was a garden, filled with herbs, vegetables and flowers. I saw a rabbit nibbling on some clover, and squirrels chased each other in circles up tree trunks. Birds sang brightly as if in welcome. Then I saw the old lady, kneeling in a flower bed weeding around the sundial. She was wearing a blue calico dress, with pure white hair in a neat bun.

She looked up and smiled at me as I slowly approached.

"Why hello dear. I've been waiting for you."

"The wolves sent me here."

"Indeed, I had a dream about it last night. Young Spark promised he would find me someone to help take care of my garden." She didn't seem to think it at all unusual to be communicating with the wolves, whether in reality or in dreams.

As we walked past the fruit trees down the gravel path to her door, I knew I had been led to my forever home.

Word count: 737
Prompt: Imagine you're walking through a forest. A wolf appears. What happens next?
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