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This is the prequel for the story "Red as Blood".

It is very loosely based on the old German fairy tale "The Wolf And The Seven Young Goats".

The idea, characters and story itself belong to Fiur and Vlamme.

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(c) 2013 by Fiur and Vlamme

 

Blood of Seven

 


Once upon a time, there was a woman. Well, actually, she was almost still a girl. All alone, she walked through the world. Even though she was young of age, she had experienced more than most others had in a whole lifetime. Her name was Osanna.

A starlit night surrounded the forest. A little campfire burnt between the trees, just big enough to give a little light and warmth. Tiny sparks flew from the crackling logs into the darkness. Outside the small circle of light, the forest was alive with the sounds of night, invisible for the eye, hidden in the dark.

Osanna was sitting on a fallen tree. Using even strokes, she polished the blade of her sword. Her gaze was highly concentrated. A few times she lifted her weapon, checking the blade. As soon as she was satisfied, she rose and swung it dexterously. She smiled. Like always it lay well in her hand. Finally she placed it back into its scabbard at her belt. Thinking about the challenge that lay ahead, she closed her eyes and gathered all her strength. She inhaled deeply of the cold, moist night air and opened her senses to the silent solitude. There was nothing she loved more in the world than the freedom of solitude. Her heartbeat was calm and even.

The scary howl of a wolf enchanted Osanna like the tempting call of a siren. She listened intently, but no other wolf answered. It was time. With stoic calm, she opened her lids and her eyes blazed with excitement. The hunt could start.

Meanwhile the moon was shining far above the fir tree tops and she readied herself. After hiding her meager belongings between the roots of an old tree, she grabbed her red cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. In the end, she carefully stomped out the campfire.

The pale moonlight was her only guide, but the young woman was used to be walking during the night. It didn't bother her at all. In fact, she liked it, because she thought of the night as a trusty comrade.

With quick steps, she went into the direction of the howling. Deeper and deeper, she walked into the forest. She could feel that she was headed straight at it. Absolute silence surrounded her. No gust of wind stroked her cheek as she stopped in the shade of a high fir tree. Motionless, she regarded the clearing. On the other side, there was distinct movement in the shadows of the trees. Her eyes were aimed at the target, while her hands carefully pulled the sword from the scabbard. Clear blue eyes turned to slits, trying to get a better view of the shape. Among the undergrowth, she detected an enormously big shadow.

The young woman took one step upon the clearing and stopped. She knew that trying to creep up would have been in vain. She had its complete attention.

Slowly, the shadow turned towards her. Dangerously glowing eyes observed her. A huge, black paw, tipped with flashing claws was the first thing to be illuminated by the bright moon. Bit by bit, a giant silhouette was revealed.

It was a wolf. From its appearance though, it was definitely not a common wolf. This one was much bigger with a powerful body. It was a werewolf.

The glowing eyes regarded the sword first, before turning to the human. It began to speak in a growling voice. "So, so. A little girl has come to catch me."

"No little girl. I stand a huntress," Osanna countered coldly.

Rumbling laughter was her answer and a moment later the werewolf jumped at her, teeth bared.

Osanna had expected such a move and quickly whipped her sword upward to deflect the impending attack. The wolf came to its feet in the distance of a sword length. Lurking, it began to circle her. The young woman didn't take her eyes off it.

"Is that so?" the werewolf began, watching her intently. "Also hunters can be eaten."

They were now eye to eye.

It continued, snarling, "Especially when they are so young and tender."

A gleaming in its eyes betrayed its intention in that moment. With unbelievable speed, the werewolf jumped at her throat, but Osanna had foreseen it and prevented it. Dexterously turning half to the side, she dodged its attack. Her sword's pommel connected with the creature, hitting it right between the shoulder blades.

The werewolf felt its front legs bending and cried out in pain. It had clearly underestimated her strength. Quickly it regained its footing and turned to her, baring its teeth.

"I will tear open your throat like that of a defenseless little goat!" it raged.

Osanna tightened the grip on her sword and raised it. "Well, as you can see, I am not defenseless." The moonlight reflected from the blade, giving it a sliver glow. "Midnight is past. Soon your night will be over."

Angry, the werewolf growled.

"You know," Osanna said calmly, "I will not leave without a fight." She could feel the growing restlessness inside the werewolf. The monster inside it demanded its tribute. Its mind would soon shut down completely, making way for the unquenchable greed that raged inside it like a flaming inferno. The wolf had to make a decision and finally remembered an easier, much better prey. Its strong hind legs dug deeply into the soft ground as it turned around abruptly. It quickly disappeared between the trees and the forest seemed to swallow it.

Motionless, Osanna watched the werewolf leave and then she followed the creature at lightning speed.

It was easy for her to track it through the undergrowth. The werewolf didn't even try to cover its trail. The longing for flesh and blood was too demanding. Its tracks ended as soon as the lines of trees grew lighter in front of Osanna. A small hut was revealed, which had been hidden in the depths of the forest. No light shone inside.

Flushed from the run, Osanna took a few deep breaths and cautiously walked towards the house. Regarding it closely, she realized that it was merely an old shack. Only a few things had been fixed on it, making her wonder if somebody was actually living in it. From the corner of her eye, she watched the outskirts of the forest, sure that the werewolf was somewhere nearby. After all, the creature had led her here.

Upon reaching the hut, Osanna heard sounds from inside and knocked at the door.

Silence fell immediately.

Impatiently, she looked through one of the windows. Nobody could be seen in the living room. She knocked again, using more force. Nobody came in sight. Restless, she gazed to the woods behind her. She was just about to rattle at the door, when suddenly her ears picked up a quiet, sleepy voice.

"Who is there?" it wanted to know, frightened.

"A child?" , Osanna thought, shocked. "Where are your mother and your father?" she asked.

As an answer, she detected more voices, that whispered to each other, excited. Impatience grew inside her and a thought rose. "Are you home alone?"

The voices faded.

Now Osanna had to make a decision, because there was not much time left. Beseeching, she warned the children, "I have to go into the woods. Beware of the wolf!" To emphasize the dangerous situation, she added, "If it gets into the house, it will eat you alive!"

Insolent, the voice of an older boy sounded out from behind the door. "Our mother already said that. Go away!"

Still concerned, Osanna admonished, "Keep the door locked tightly." Then she ran towards the trees, sword in hands.

The wolf was waiting for her in the undergrowth.

It was Osanna's plan to keep it away from the house of the children.

As it came at her, she forced it back. In the face of the dangerously swinging sword, the creature retreated, step by step.

The werewolf roared furiously. The greed had grown to a point, it felt like its blood was boiling. Now and again, it tried to hit Osanna with its giant paws. Its snout opened wide, it jumped, no longer minding the gleaming blade. Its teeth were suddenly dangerously close to her throat.

For Osanna it was strenuous, but for the werewolf it was even more difficult. There was not enough room for their fight. Twigs hit Osanna's face, blood ran from scratches and she knew she had to finish their fight quickly.

The wolf's lust for flesh seemed to increase its strength.

Though she was trained well, the unending struggle tired her.

A low hanging branch came to her rescue. Osanna ran and leapt, reaching for the branch with one hand. With the other hand, she flung her sword high into the air.

The werewolf followed after her, believing to be able to catch her leg.

Osanna turned, gaining momentum and jumped. With both feet, she landed on the wolf's back. Caught off guard, she managed to press the creature to the ground and somersaulted off its body. Dexterously, she caught her sword and slashed at the werewolf.

It tried to dodge her blows, but Osanna's blade connected with its flank.

Howling in pain, it flailed its paws and tossed her to the side, as if she was a mere leaf in the wind. All air was forced from her lungs. Her body overturned several times and she couldn't prevent her fall into a leaf-covered hole. It was a well-hidden bear trap.

Gasping, she writhed on the ground, almost unable to move at all. Pain ripped through all her limbs. Looking up, she saw the blurry silhouette of the werewolf.

The creature was circling the hole, deeply regretting its inability to reach Osanna. Then it disappeared from her view.

Darkness wrapped a soothing cloak around her as she lost consciousness.

Slowly Osanna regained her senses. The first she noticed was the moldy scent around her, reminding her of the fall into the hole. It was wet and cold. The veil of dizziness had not been completely lifted yet. Groaning, she tried to move her limbs. Her body was mostly numb, but for the piercing ache in her side, just there where the werewolf's claws had hit. Carefully, she checked the wound under her clothes, feeling the blood. Dejected, she sank back. It took all her will to get up and not give in to the alluring call of consciousness once more. Grinding her teeth, she rose, suppressing an outcry of pain. It was a strenuous task. Exhausted, she supported her frame at the pit's wall. Looking up, she began to think of a way to escape this trap. The soil was moist and loose, but traversed by roots. Osanna bent down to pick up her sword. Cursing, she straightened immediately, because the burning wound made itself known strongly. Gasping, she waited for the pain to cease, before she attempted to climb out of the pit. It took a while to reach the rim, after slipping from time to time and almost falling back into the hole. Osanna managed to escape the trap. Sweat-soaked, her features contorted from pain, she lay on her back. The wound burned. Looking up, she noticed that dawn was fast approaching and a bad feeling overcame Osanna.

Meanwhile, the werewolf had returned to the clearing. The greed had forced the creature back to the house. Its hunger had grown unbearable and had to be quenched with human flesh. A dark, ominous growl escaped its stomach and salvia trickled unstoppable from its snout. Due to the fight, the night was almost over and dawn impending. Upon arriving at the hut's threshold, the creature banged its fists against the door.

Then it pulled itself together and began to speak in an assumed voice."Open up, dear children. Your beloved mother has returned with a gift from the forest for each of you."

Still sleepy, the children really believed that their mother had finally come home. They opened the door, but it was not their mother, who entered. It was the wolf. Frightened, they tried to hide. The werewolf found them all. After it had satisfied its burning hunger, the creature left the house, sated and content.

In this moment, Osanna stumbled out of the undergrowth. The first rays of the sun had not yet managed to pierce through the thick treetops. Their eyes met. The werewolf looked at her in shock, but all the young woman could see was the blood that covered the creature.

Unrestrained fury rose inside her. She attacked with the courage of desperation.

The wolf wanted to flee into the woods, but it was too slow due to all it had eaten. Ignoring the flaming pain in her side, Osanna crossed the meadow as fast as she could. She knew the hunt would be over, if the creature managed to reach the undergrowth.

She caught up with it and raised her sword.

The werewolf was unable to defend itself in the face of her angry onslaught. With a wild outcry, Osanna beheaded the creature with one practiced stroke. Immediately, the monster slumped to the ground. The severed head sailed through the air, before it came to rest in the grass. Silence fell.

Osanna was at the end of her strength. The sword slid from her trembling hands. It was over. Exhausted, she slumped next to the dead werewolf.

Sunlight, the messenger of the new day, bathed the meadow. Flowers opened their petals, touched by warmth and light. Colorful butterflies danced in the golden rays and insects buzzed and hummed across the clearing. All this innocent beauty was a harsh contrast to the young woman lying in the grass, still covered with dirt and blood. She wanted nothing more but to forget the horrid nightmare of the past night. But she couldn't and the worst was still ahead. Groaning, Osanna rose. Brushing aside the high grass, she crouched, regarding the lifeless body. In death, the werewolf had changed back to its original human form.

"A woman." Osanna was surprised.

The eyes of the severed head looked at her gray and empty. Osanna couldn't feel anything at the sight. Her gaze turned to the hut. The door was wide open. The darkness behind it wasn't very inviting. Briefly, she thought about just burning down the place to save her the gruesome details, but she wasn't like that. She wanted to give the dead a decent funeral, no matter the cost. Sighing, she crossed over to the shack. On the threshold, she stopped, swallowing hard. Then, she entered. After her eyes had gotten used to the lack of light, she took in the whole extent of the tragedy. The room was sole chaos. Table, benches and chairs were overturned and broken. The washing bowl was in pieces. Pillows and covers of the bed lay on the ground, torn to shreds. In between were the dead children, feathers covering the blood-streaked bodies. Though she quickly closed her eyes, the image stuck fast in her mind. Tears welled up in Osanna's eyes. She felt guilty and at the same time very helpless. Falling to her knees, she screamed out her failure. Burying her face in her hands, heavy sobs shook her frame and she could do nothing to calm herself.

A fine, quiet voice called out. "I am in the clock case!"

Osanna's head flew up and her breath caught. She recognized the little voice. Though her view was blurry, she saw the child's blonde head behind the glass. Using her sleeve, Osanna wiped the tears of her own face. The knob on the grandfather's clock slowly turned. Eyes wide opened, she stormed towards it, as she realized that the child wanted to get out.

The clock case opened and she looked into big, green eyes of a little girl, who watched her, seeking help. This gaze struck a chord deeply in Osanna's heart.

She cupped the little face. "Look at me! Look only at me!"

Unable to move, the little girl stared into Osanna's sky-blue eyes.

The young woman quickly pulled the child from the clock case and into her arms, pressing the small face against her chest, so she wouldn't see her dead siblings. On the way out, Osanna's eyes fell on a family portrait on the wall and she recognized the woman in the picture. The werewolf had once been the mother of these children. Osanna was thunderstruck. She embraced the girl tighter and raced from the hut.

The girl held on for dear life, while Osanna ran with her to the meadow. In a sea of flowers, she sat her down. Helpless and shaking, she regarded her.

The little girl sat in front of her, barefoot, dressed in a simple, thin, white nightgown.

Seeing her for the first time in daylight, Osanna realized just how young and vulnerable she was. Her green eyes silently asked questions, but the young woman didn't answer.

Ashamed, she avoided her glance. She also felt uncomfortable, standing there as she was, covered by dirt and blood. What a horrible sight she must be to the little girl. Worried she looked at her, but there was no sign of fear in the girl's eyes. Only this one question that Osanna didn't wish to hear.

As the little girl saw that she wouldn't answer, she asked out loud, "Where is Mama?"

Osanna's heart almost stopped. She didn't know what to tell her. In that moment, she was just as lost as the little girl, who was sitting opposite her.

"Is she also dead?" she asked, as if she had read the answer in Osanna's eyes.

The young woman nodded. Ruefully, she regarded the little girl, knowing that next time she would act the same. The girl watched her, while Osanna could only think about the dead body and the severed head of the little one's mother, lying a few feet away in the grass.

Osanna rose.

The girl's eyes followed her. Reaching forward, she quickly grabbed Osanna's cloak, unwilling to let her go. Despite the warming sun, she trembled like an aspen leaf.

"Here," Osanna awkwardly consoled her. Pulling the red cloak from her shoulders, she wrapped it around the girl's small frame. The little girl almost disappeared completely among the folds. To regain control of the situation, Osanna bent forward and whispered into the girl's ear. "This cloak is pure magic. It protects the one, who wears it."

"Did it protect you from the wolf?" the girl asked, bashfully.

Osanna nodded and forced a smile to her face. Carefully, she peeled the tiny fingers off her and urged the small girl to lay down in the grass, covering her with the velvety fabric. "As long as you are wrapped in this cloak, nothing will happen to you."

A bit unsure, the girl looked at her.

"I promise. And now go to sleep." Tenderly, Osanna brushed a hand through her blonde hair and waited until she had fallen asleep.

Then Osanna went to the hut, searching for a shovel. In the shadows of the trees behind the house, she dug the graves. Even though she was utterly exhausted, she continued until each of the dead was resting in a grave. The strenuous work kept her from thinking too much. After she was finished, she had a drink of water from the well and cleaned herself as good as she could. She had taken off her clothes and stood there in her undershirt. Her wound was cleaned and somewhat bandaged with her sleeves. At last, she washed the blood off her sword. Her eyes flickered to the meadow from time to time. The bright red of her cloak seemed to shout her failure into her face. As much as she tried to deny it, she couldn't wash that off.

The little girl had not moved. As Osanna looked at her, she was wide awake and stared at the drifting clouds. The young woman lay down next to her, on the cloak, and the girl immediately cuddled close. Quietly, she began to speak of what had happened in the night, her face buried at Osanna's belly. Sobbing, she told her how the wolf had entered the house and how everyone had tried to hide. She had been crouching in the grandfather's clock, eyes squeezed tightly shut. She also had covered her ears with her hands. Still, she had been able to hear her siblings' screaming. Then she stopped and just cried.

Osanna tightened the embrace and stroked her hot cheeks. Fighting tears herself, she cradled the little girl in her arms and choked out, "The wolf is dead."

Looking at her, the girl repeated, "The wolf is dead." A trace of sadness was in her gaze.

Osanna just held her close to her heart. She didn't know what else to do. It seemed to calm the little girl, as much as it did Osanna.

After they had been lying like that for a while, Osanna asked, "Would you like to pluck some flowers for your family?"

"Yes," the little girl sniffled and at up.

Quietly, she picked different colorful flowers and tied them to wreaths. With those, she adorned the simple wooden crosses, which Osanna had made in the meantime from little boughs. Piously, they stood in front of the seven graves. It was a peaceful moment and the world around them seemed to have stopped. The little girl desperately clutched Osanna's arm. Looking for comfort, she pressed her face against the young woman.

Osanna knelt down and hugged her sincerely. Hope was in her eyes. She no longer longed for solitude and night. She wanted to protect the little girl, and her innocence.

Tightening the embrace, Osanna asked, "What is your name?"

"Ennelyn."

 

The End

 

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