She ran through the woods, knowing it was useless. The trickster would catch her, Dweorh always caught his prey. She wasn’t sure luring the hunter out of the cabin had saved her sister and mother or not. Hopefully they were safe. If not, leaving them had been a mistake, but what else could she do? She just had to trust Dweorh was so upset by her attack he would pursue her first. As she continued to run she zigged and zagged through the forest. Hopefully he was a hunter without a gun. That was unlikely. Safer to make herself a difficult target.
Behind her she heard twigs snapping. Closer and closer the snaps came. Whatever was following her was gaining on her, fast. She saw a clearing up ahead and instantly decided she was done with her ‘flight’ approach. There. There she would fight. She made it to the clearing and dropped mid-step into a rolling somersault. The thing leaped over her, missing her by inches. She stood, not immediately recognizing what was in front of her. It was too large to be Dweorh. Sadly it was too small to be the bear that had spent so many winter nights with them in their cabin. Cautiously she reached for her hood and lowered it. Realizing it was a wild wolf she was careful not to make any sudden movements.
The wolf circled and eventually stopped on the opposite side of the clearing. Close enough to attack her if he so chose, but far enough away to make her feel at ease. She held up her hands in surrender.
“Please,” she pleaded, “just let me go. Someone is after me. I mustn’t linger.”
The wolf cocked his head to the side, the shook it. She was about to argue when she heard something just outside the clearing. A twig snapped and instantly she was down on the ground again. She cursed that she had the red side of the cloak facing out. It was such a habit, to wear bright colors in the woods. She should have flipped it to black, the better to hide. Too late now. The wolf melted into the trees, leaving her utterly alone. If only that had lasted.
The hunter sauntered in, already toying with his prey. He carried something in his hands, he was too far away to see it clearly. He stopped in front of her. She was glad to see his eye was partially swollen over. The gash she had inflicted on his forehead seemed to have met it’s mark.
“Well little Red, so nice to see you,” as he spoke he flicked his hands and she felt herself fly through the air to the nearest tree. “I would allow you to stand on your own. But clearly you can’t be trusted to be a lady.”
“Snow is the one you would want for that,” she quipped, feigning bravery. “I was always a bit of a handful for mother.”
“Undoubtedly. Don’t worry. You wont have to worry about that any more. In fact after I deal with you, none of you will have to worry about that. Did you really think you could save them?”
He tossed the thing he held in his hands to her. She bent down to retrieve it from the ground. A lock of jet black curls. Why did he have his sister’s hair? That was beyond creepy. She felt the hair are her neck rise as she considered possibilities.
“Don’t fret small one. The both still live. You assured you’d be the first to die, that’s how you wanted it, was it not? However I couldn’t just let them escape, now could I? That will lead me back to her you see. So really, your sacrifice will be for naught. All your actions earlier did was seal a painful death for yourself.”
Bile rose in her throat as she faced her utter failure. Mother and Snow would die. She didn’t doubt his magic could find her aided by the hair. How far would he go to get it back though? It was so much hair. After all, just a little lock. Maybe…Before she could be revolted by her own plan or think of something new she shoved the locket down her throat. Frozen by her act the man just watched as she dry heaved. Her body did not want to keep it down, but her mind did. She could try. She could try to destroy the link. Finally the man processed what had happened. Anger surged him forward, just as he pulled out a knife from his belt the wolf returned.
With a howl it charged. It caught the man’s knife arm with his jaws and wrenched him viciously to the side. She heard the pop as the shoulder was dislocated. Her eardrums nearly erupted at the resulting outcry of pain. The wolf tossed him aside like a rag doll. Dweorh, scuttling away, tripped over his feet and crashed head first into a rock. With a roar a bear came in to aid the wolf. He was ready to slash the hunter to bits until he caught side of the girl and paused. Peering at him carefully she realized it was the bear that had spent the winter with her family. The kind and gentle beast. He seemed reluctant to give up that persona.
Crossing to the man she couldn’t help but notice the unnatural angle his head was compared to his neck. He wasn’t moving. Not even enough for shallow breaths. Reaching down she felt his chest. After a few far between beats there was nothing. She pressed her hand harder on his chest, sure she was just missing it. Pressing so hard her wrist started to hurt she accepted the truth. He was dead. Then a light filled the clearing. She covered her eyes from the sudden brightness. Once it had dispersed she slowly opened them.
In the clearing were two men. Each standing where the bear and wolf had been moments before. She bent down and removed the hunter’s cloak. Not wanting to touch him more than necessary, but feeling obligated to give the naked men something for the brisk fall night. She tossed the cloak to the man that had been the bear. He nodded and graciously threw it over his shoulders. She realized then that she didn’t have anything for the wolf. The real hero of the tale and there was nothing for him. She couldn’t bring herself to take anything else from the hunter. Removing her own cloak she tossed it to him. He smiled, easily accepting the token. Once secure they approached her, the bear crouching to examine the remains himself.
The wolf stopped short of her, wanting to give her comforting space. Just like he had earlier. He then looked at her and seemed to see her for the first time. Surprised into talking he blurted, “Red eyes.”
She smiled at that, “indeed. Red as any Rose in my mother’s garden. Hence the name, Rose Red. That’s me, by the by, Rose. And you would be?”
“My brother Torolf,” the bear cut in, “apparently cursed along with me.”
“I had to search for you Bjorn, it’s not like we knew what had happened.”
“You certainly found out.”
“Indeed I did.”
“Come, let us see what has become of your family Rose Red.”
Found via Pinterest.
Prompt: What is the story behind this photo