Wolf in the Wind
by Sharon Lee
Dinner done, we carried coffee mugs out to the deck overlooking the sea. I’d grown up calling it the “summer parlor,” and its season was just about past. I shivered in my sweatshirt, and leaned against Borgan’s chest for more than just the pleasure it gave me.
Oscar followed us out and sat with his nose poking between the pickets. Not a happy dog, Oscar, but he was being polite about it. Truth told, I didn’t blame him for being a little antsy. For all his talk of reunions on the morrow, I’d expected Cael back sooner rather than later, and it was getting along to being much later.
“Reckon the willie didn’t come back?” asked Borgan, reading the room.
“Maybe,” I said, feeling something like actual worry, now that we were talking about it. “Willie wisps aren’t exactly rocket scientists. Could’ve seen something else shiny – and easier to steal–and gone off after that.” I sighed sharply. “What I don’t like is that it keeps coming back to that tree–to Mrs. Newton. That says there’s a nest.”
“Which means it’ll come back,” Borgan said. “Only maybe not soon.”
“Cael’s got work tomorrow.”
Cael had to work tomorrow, or Councilwoman Marcant would be in the town manager’s office that quick, demanding he be fired. Getting fired from a town job in a town as small as Archers Beach meant you weren’t likely to get another job–at least ’til summer came ’round again and you could pick up something at Fun Country, making pizza, or drawing ice cream, any of which would be too much work and too little pay. Wouldn’t make him any different than the rest of the townies; that’s the way staying alive worked in a resort town. It was just the sheer–malice of the thing that got stuck in my chest. Cael was good at his job; his boss liked him; the town liked him, the critters liked him. But Avis Marcant didn’t like him–and it had nothing to do with the quality of his work.
“Figure to take a walk back up the hill?” Borgan asked.
I sighed, and finished my coffee.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to know the right thing to do,” I complained, and felt his laugh in my bones.
“Now, I’ve never found that.”
Another rumble of laughter.
There aren’t any fixed hours that go with being Guardian of the Land. Or for the Guardian of the Gulf of Maine, either. The fact was that willie wisps didn’t belong in Archers Beach. Willie wisps didn’t belong anywhere in the Changing Land, but the whole of the Changing Land wasn’t my problem. Thank God.
Cael was more than capable of taking care of a willie wisp, him being both my oathsworn, like they say in the Land of the Flowers, and through me, bound to the Land known as Archers Beach.
However, Cael had not yet taken care of the willie, and Cael had other duties to fulfill.
And, if there was one stray willie in town, who’s to say there weren’t more?
I sighed again and straightened away from Borgan.
“Looks like the willie wisp stops here,” I said. “Coming?”
“Why not?” Borgan said, taking the mug out of my hand. “Being honest, I’d like to get a look at that nest.”
“All right, then.” I turned–
The Land shouted inside my head, showing me wet red streamers raining down onto a scruffy lawn, the blinding glare of a working snapping into being–and something that felt like nothing–like an absence–a specific absence of Cael.
Oscar howled again, long and desolate.
I spun, took a step through the doorway into the house–
And another step, out onto Burdette Street, at the end of Mrs. Newton’s driveway.
* * *
If you liked this chapter, please consider making a donation toward the upkeep of this site, and/or the cat food trust fund.