Wolf in the Wind
by Sharon Lee
The Land showed me what was going on across the street, and a friendly breeze brought me voices; the words as clear as if I was right there with them. The fright in the rock suit was definitely one of the Wise, I could see the power blazing around her like a halo. Avis Marcant–why–or how– Avis Marcant was in this, I couldn’t fathom, except for the part where she was trying to get the fright to take Cael out of Archers Beach. That wasn’t going to happen.
What worried me–a lot–was this talk of a key. A key to this place. Was the place Archers Beach, in particular? Or the whole of the Changing Land? Either way, it made no sense. The Wise had cut us out of the natural orbit of the Six Worlds. They’d shut the World Gate, and were perfectly willing to let us die–it being not yet proved that we would die. I had the idea that what was going to die were the rest of the Six Worlds, but nobody’d asked my opinion, and anyway what could one Guardian of a swath of Land in Maine that was the sole support of a rundown resort town, do against the Council of the Wise?
“He’s lying,” Avis Marcant yelled, which got my attention, sure enough. I took a breath, reached for the Land–
And saw Cael shiver against the night air, falling to four good feet and leaping away as a large grey wolf.
Avis Marcant screamed. The Wise One shouted a Word potent enough to peel paint. Cael kept on going, making for the trees at the bottom of the street.
I reached to the Land, which ought not to have registered as power on the Wise’s radar, but guess what?
Lightning stitched the night, heading right toward me. I jumped sideways, toward the house, hoping the incoming was just your casual killing blade of power, rather than something that had been personally addressed to me.
I was lucky. The bolt through the place I’d been standing–and hit the Oldsmobile with a crackle and a BOOM!
The door slammed open at my back.
“Get in here! Now!” Angela Newton shouted.
I didn’t wait to be told twice.
* * *
Cael ran for the trees.
So far as he knew, they were only trees, nothing so terrible as the forest atop Heath Hill, the stronghold of his liege’s grandmother and her consort. Nothing would get past those trees – possibly not Cael himself. The small grove he had chosen as his refuge in this moment of need would let him in, and–trees of the Land as they were, and owing fealty to Kate–they would protect him, man or wolf.
He loped across the asphalt. The undergrowth parted for him, and closed again as he slowed to a trot, stoppinginside a small grassy clearing. Raising his nose, he tested the air, finding only the scents of an autumn wood. He heard no sound of pursuit, nor tasted jikinap. He might have had better information, if he touched the Land itself, but he felt himself safer as a simple wolf, innocent of power, fell or otherwise, and certainly innocent of the town’s dogcatcher.
His hackles rose, and he felt a growl roughen his throat. Deliberately, he calmed his anger, stilled his thoughts. He was a wolf, simple and calm, hunting voles in the autumn forest, and nothing to draw the interest of one of the Great Wise Ones.
Around him, the trees waited. Cael shook his fur into order, and trotted across the clearing, disappearing between two pine trees, intent on finding the heart of the wood.
* * *
The door slammed behind me, and I sagged against the wall. I was in a narrow vestibule, the wall across from me was papered with a seashell print that had probably been bright and cheery, once. To my right was the closed door. Across from me was a wooden umbrella stand with three umbrellas waiting to be of service, above it was a rustic wooden wall shelf, a set of keys hanging on one of the three iron hooks beneath a cheery stenciled Welcome Home!
To my left–was Angela Newton, standing in the doorway that must open into the rest of the house. She was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and clutching a pudgy grey-and-white cat to her chest.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“I’m fine. I appreciate you letting me in. Things were getting a little hot out there.”
“That woman!” Mrs. Newton exploded. “She’s a menace, and her tame real estate agent, too! If she thinks I’m going to sell her this house–well, I told her I wouldn’t! Why would I sell it? It’s my home! My husband and I lived here all the years we were married, our kids grew up here–it’s paid off! I grew up in this town! Where would I go, if I sold this house?”
“Won’t take no for an answer?” I asked, easing away from the wall and sending a sharp glance at the door to be certain it was locked. It was, but there was only so much brass and wood could stand against, if Rocky the Wise decided she wanted in.
“It’s completely ridiculous! I told her no, that should’ve been the end of it! Then she produces this realtor, ready to write me a blank check and laughing at me when I said I wouldn’t sell at any price. And now–loud music at all hours, fireworks after curfew–they’re trying to force me out, I know that, and I know they’ll find someway to make it worse, if I talk to the police, so I haven’t, but if they’re going to start threatening other people, to somehow make it my fault that these dreadful things are happening . . . “
Suddenly, she began to cry, her face turned away as if she was ashamed that I was seeing it.
I moved forward, and the cat in her arms–Pretty Boots, it must be–glared at me. I stopped, and very carefully reached to the Land.
Ripples of power reached me–nothing at all like the usual feel of the Land, though there was something . . . tantalizingly familiar there. I queried, and got the Land’s assurance that Avis and Rocky weren’t on the lawn across the street anymore, which was only a limited comfort.
I asked about Cael, and got a moment of puzzlement, before I got a glimpse of a big grey wolf moving quiet between trees. Nearby, that was the sense I got, and then the exact taste of the little spinney at the intersection of Burdette Street and Foote flooded my mouth.
All right, that was good. Wolf in the wood, no problem. Unless Rocky had gone after him, in which case I didn’t like his chances. Not that Cael was without resources, but he wasn’t drawing on the Land. I’d almost been killed by one of the Wise while I’d been standing in a power center on my own Land. I don’t know what the Wise draw on, but there doesn’t seem to be any limit to it.
The Land did the metaphysical equivalent of tugging on my sleeve, and my senses were suddenly flooded with green determination. The little wood on Foote Street, that was again, showing me its muscles.
“What should I do?” Mrs. Newton asked me, still clutching Pretty Boots to her chest.
I sighed and stepped toward her.
“First, you need to tell me who you are, and how long this Door’s been here.”
* * *
This is the last chapter of the splinter “Wolf in the Wind.” Thank you for coming along for the ride.
* * *
If you liked this chapter, please consider making a donation toward the upkeep of this site, and/or the cat food trust fund.