by T. Merle
The Five-Eyed Wolf cares more about manners than you think.
Bushes cracked and swished, almost like angry claws tearing at the young woman’s clothing. Each swish of the leaves whispered in her ears|
“You won’t outrun him”
“He sees all.”
“You know you won’t escape.”
She pushed herself to run faster, not caring where she ran, as long as it was far away from her pursuers.
The sky was dark and eerily silent, each cracking branch like a gunshot.
Then the howling started up.
The howling began behind her, urging her to run faster, her breath coming in ragged pants. Like echoes, howls came on either side of her.
She wasn’t running away, they were forcing her to go where they pleased.
The young woman skidded to a halt, pale eyes wide as she searched the forest around her. Her long blonde hair hung limp with sweat, ragged, torn from the clawing branches. The howling was getting closer on all sides.
They were already here.
The wolves were silent, almost as if their paws were floating above the earth, as they pushed through the foliage. Their slavering jaws hung open as they began to mill around her, close enough for her to feel their ugly breath, but they never touched her.
The young woman clasped her arms around herself, crying out in prayer.
“Creator, I fear for everything I’ve done. If I am saved from this horrid death, I will never break your laws again.” She paused, a sob breaking from her throat as she watched the wolves. She squeezed her eyes shut, raising her voice.
“Deliver me into the hands of the Creator, oh wicked Fiends!”
As if commanded the wolves leaped upon one another, piling one on top of the other in a horrible tower of fur, silent as they devoured and smothered each other.
Her eyes flew open and the woman leaped backwards in fear. She fell back to the ground, scrabbling back through the frosty grass away from the writhing mass of wolves.
In a heartbeat the pile of gray bodies cleared away, like a dirty fog, and He rose.
Three times larger than any of the wolves that had been there a moment ago, the great wolf stood on his hind legs, his long grey-green tail wagging stiffly, and his face...
Her gaze traveled to his face, what she saw there caused her to cry out and tear her eyes away from his terrible visage. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, willing the monster to leave her.
His muzzle was split in a grin, teeth pulled back to show his dripping fangs. Above his sickening smile, more than enough eyes glared back at her, gleaming a terrible gold.
This was the Five-Eyed Wolf.
“Well, well, well. It seems you can’t run forever, my dear.” His voice was deep and deceptively smooth. “You do know that your actions have consequences, hmm?”
The woman kept her eyes shut tightly as she spoke. “I.. I’m sorry! I didn’t know. I didn’t mean to break your rules.”
“You just can’t stop, can you? You may want to think of what you’re doing.” He paused, golden eyes set on her like a helpless dove. “Let me give you a hint… It is rude not to look at someone while they are talking to you.”
The woman’s eyes ripped open, flying to the wolf’s face, trying to focus on him and not make contact with any of his eyes.
“This town is very strict on the Rules of Civility, and you madame were not being very civil. If you can’t seem to remember, let’s take a look back at it, shall we?” The wolf took a few steps forward, and seated himself gingerly beside the woman. Using one huge paw he reached towards her.
She hesitated, eyes wide and fearful. Not wanting to anger him any longer, she managing a shaky nod.
The wolf touched his paw to the side of her head. As soon as he did, the scene of their first meeting played like a movie infront of them.
The sea wind gently puffed the docked ship's sails. The salty warm air seemed to hug the people as they went about the festivities of the day. On the large docks, people waved their hats and kerchiefs to the men, women and children who departed from the bellies of the docked ships.
One of the people coming off of the ships was a young woman, eyes and hair pale. This woman was Jezzabelle. Dressed in dark green finery, she wore the outfit of a merchant’s daughter.
The young lady retrieved her things, a small wagon piled high with luggage, from a ruddy shipworker, dismissing him without much more than a click of her tongue. As she left the docks she made her way deeper into the town, wheeling her cart behind her, heading towards the place she would stay alone for the next few days.
Jezzabelle made her way through the winding roads, eyes flicking up to the wobbly buildings, face pinched unpleasantly. She was glad she was heading for the nicer end of town, further away from the salty water that wore away paint and shape, happy her father hadn’t boarded her in any of the buildings portside, all of them in need of a fresh layer of paint.
After a ways of walking Jezzabelle noticed a boy, who couldn't be much older than her, about seventeen, walking on the other side of the street. She frowned, not having noticed him before, as if he materialized out of the shadows cast by the afternoon sun.
The boy was wearing scrappy clothing, pants patched at the knees and shirt at the elbows. He wore a crooked flat cap on top of his ruffled hair, which lingered somewhere between green and gray.
He whistled as he walked, glancing fondly at the tall buildings. His eyes wandered down the building before landing on Jezzabelle. He paused in his whistling to raise a hand in greeting..
She cast a glance at him, and tipped her head. Her gaze flicked pointedly away, and she marched on like she had never seen him in the first place.
With her acknowledgement the boy crossed the street, and settled into pace beside her. “Hello Miss.” He said with a tip of his flat top hat, hands adorned in thin gloves patched much like his other clothes. “How are you doing on this fine day?”
Jezzabelle gave the boy a soft hum, not turning her eyes towards him. She had interacted with his kind too many times.
The boy’s lips turned down at the corner, and yet he continued. “My name is Lupin.” He offered.
Jezzabelle once more, didn’t give an answer, this time not even deeming to look at the boy.
His lips once more twisted down. “And you are?”
Jezzabelle heaved a sigh and frowned. She stopped in her tracks and whipped around.
“Alright, streetrat.” She pointed a neatly manicured finger at him. “I didn’t come here to be harassed by some kid. Now go try to steal money off some other traveler.”
Lupin didn’t react, eyes flicking from Jezzabelle’s face to the finger she had stuck in his chest. His expression darkened, and he furrowed his brow. He took a step back from the angry woman, straightening his tattered coat front. “If you don’t mind me saying, Miss, that was rather rude. And if it's alright to you, I’ll now take my leave.”
“Yes, get out of here, you slightfinger.”
Lupin then turned, and disappeared just as he had shown up, melding into the shadows. It was like he had never been there at all.
Jezzabelle huffed, happy to be alone once more and went on unbothered, finding the hotel her father had booked her quite easily. She received her room key and left her baggage with the rather surprised desk-woman, telling her that it would be returned to her room after washing.
“These people,” She murmured to herself as she mounted the stairs. “Is the entire town full of fools and thieves?”
She went to sleep early, turning in after a long week of traveling, happy to finally have a bed on sturdy ground again. The desk-woman still hadn’t returned her things by the time she had turned out the light, leaving an irritated Jezzabelle to sleep in her traveling clothes.
The silent night air was broken by a knock on her door. Jezzabelle awoke with a groan, sitting up in the bed. “Who is it?” She called, voice bleary with sleep.
Whoever was on the other side of the door knocked again, and she tore back the covers, padding to the door. “If that is you, desk-woman, with my clothing I will not be very-” she opened the door, mouth dropping open. It was Him.
The Five-Eyed Wolf stood there, face set.
Instantly she knew this creature had been the street rat she met earlier.
“Hello Miss,” He said, “Would you care to accompany me to tea?”
“T-Tea? At night? No, I think not. Goodbye now.” Jezzabelle’s face had gone deathly pale, eyes locked on the monstrous face of the wolf.
“Didn’t anyone tell you it’s horrible rude to stare?” His lips curled back, all five eyes narrowing.
“I…I apologize.” Her eyes didn’t leave the wolf’s face.
A growl lifted in his throat. “I ask again, would you accompany me to tea?’
“No.. No thank you.” Jezzabelle said.
The wolf removed his paw from her temple, and Jezzabelle crumpled into herself.
“That’s right. You were not very civil the entire time you were here. And manners mean very much to me,” He pulled back, padding over to a felled tree on the edge of the clearing. He seated himself on the stump, which as if it had always been, swiftly transformed into a wrought iron chair.
“Now that I’ve found you, I will be taking you back with me down the Path of the Fae, and you will serve me.” He leaned on the body of the fallen tree, absentmindedly, slowly, tapping each one of his massive claws against the wood. It followed suit of the stump and swiftly transformed into a long garden table, laid with steaming tea cups and desserts of all kinds.
“Hopefully you will find some manners while you do.” His lip curled, eyes shifting back to land on the girl. “Now,” he said, picking up one of the teacups to take a near silent drink. “Mmm. I’m sure you have heard of me, even from where you hail from. I am the Five-Eyed Wolf. I am also known as Lupin, Gela, and The Grimmwulf. You may refer to me as Lord.” He paused for a moment, glancing at the table. “I know you turned down my offer before, but would you like some tea?”
Jezzabelle shakily nodded, not wanting to anger the Fae, and climbed to her feet. She walked over to the table, perching nervously on a branch, long broken from the tree, which almost instantly shifted into a dazzling wrought iron seat.
“Good, now you’re beginning to understand.” He chuckled dangerously, nudging a cup towards her. “Drink, drink, please.”
As she did, savoring the flavor like nothing she had tasted before, he leaned forwards. “And your name is?”
“Jezzabelle.” As soon as the word left her lips she regretted it, wishing she had given something, anything else but her true name.
A grin split his maw once more, and he set the teacup down with a soft clink.
“Jezzabelle…” as the word left his lips, it was as a powerful clawed hand gripped her mind-matter. “Now Jezzabelle, this whole predicament could have been avoided if you had manners. Every person, and fae, you meet is worthy of some respect.”
Jezzabelle didn’t answer, nervously sipping from her cup of tea.
“Some acknowledgment, yes?”
Pain shot through Jezzabelle and she shot to her feet with a yelp, dropping the cup with a clatter. “What was-” The pain doubled, and she fell to her knees, a low whine breaking from her throat.
The Five-Eyed Wolf gave her an exasperated look. “Manners, Jezzabelle… you will learn them.”
“Yes.” Jezzabelle strangled out, crying out as the pain increased yet again.
“Yes, what?” The Five-Eyed Wolf seemed to be getting tired of her.
“Yes… Yes, Lord.’
“Good! You’re learning already.”
The pain released Jezzabelle, and she gasped, scrambling to her feet once more. She didn’t want to be at this horrid tea party any longer. Anything would be better than this. “Oh creator, that was horrid.” She snapped her gaze to The Wolf. “I want to leave.”
“Already? Proper etiquette for tea is to take your time, sweet Jezzabelle.” He said, and Jezzabelle readied herself for another lash of pain.
Instead The Wolf stood, nodding. “But yes, it is rather late. We should be going.” As he stood, the tea set and furniture resumed their wooden state. Even the splattered tea from when Jezzabelle had dropped her cup disappeared without a trace.
She stared at where the tea had been for a moment before looking back up at the Five Eyed Wolf.
Where he had just been standing, the same pack of gray-green wolves stared back.
They were silent, golden eyes unblinking.
Jezzabelle shivered, taking a step towards them, nervous that they would devour her like they had each othee.
But they didn’t move, except for those golden eyes.
The young maiden dipped into a hesitant curtsy, and she could swear the wolves began to smirk.
In turn, the wolves of the pack dipped into a series of bows.
And in only a moment they were around her. They pushed against her, flipping her off of her feet. She screamed as she fell, the noise echoing in the cool night air.
Landing on the backs of the wolves, Jezzabelle struggled. They were carrying her like a wave as they ran, always a wolf there to catch her. Jezzabelle dug her fingers into their thick hides, holding on for dear life, squeezing her eyes shut against her fate.
The wolves carried her onwards, only slowing as they came to their final place.
A ring of old hawthorne trees greeted Jezzabelle’s eyes and she tried to scramble upright on the roiling tide of wolves.
She was set to the ground, the wolves once more leaped upon one another, quickly turning into the Five Eyed Wolf.
“Here we are!” His voice was joyful. “I welcome you to the Fae Path.” He said, motioning with one paw to the trees around him. “This will take us to my plane of existence.” He turned, fixing her with a gaze. “You must walk freely into the circle, and once there we will depart.”
“If I have to walk freely then I won’t go.” Jezzabelle said, taking a step back from the circle of trees.
The Wolf looked at her for a moment, then sighed. “You just have to keep making things more difficult, don’t you?” He lifted a claw and pointed at the ground beside him. “Please come here, Jezzabelle.” His voice was like that of a strict father’s.
As soon as he said her name it was as if she lost all control of her body. Even as she fought back she obediently took the place beside him. Tears began to stream down her face, as she realized the depravity of the situation.
The Wolf looked at her, politely averting his gaze until the sobs became nothing but sniffles. He cleared his throat, and turned back to her.
“We must go now. It’s terribly rude to show up late, hmm?”
She gave a stiff nod, and took a shaky breath. “I’m ready.” She would put up a strong face. She would do what her father always told her to. Clasp fate’s hands in the waltz of life.
“Good,” The Wolf cleared his throat and announced to the trees. “Take us to the summer court manor, if you will.” And immediately they began to thrash as if a mighty gust of wind had come on suddenly.
Jezzabelle wrapped her arms around herself, cowering from the whipping branches, “Death be sure to take me,” she whispered.
“Not yet, my dear Jezzabelle.”
She jumped as the wolf responded to her, withering under his gaze:
A jolt of pain ran through her and she gasped, clenching her fists tightly.
The Wolf clicked his tongue “And I thought we were making progress on manners already,” he shook his head, “No matter. We’ll be sure to fix that,” A wicked grin had split his maw. “But the important thing is, we’ve made it.”
Jezzabelle looked to see everything had changed around her. The dreary winter forest had disappeared, though the ring of hawthornes still remained.
In its place was a field, warm and ripe with grain, grasshoppers singing among the tall stalks of wheat.
She looked back at The Wolf, surprised to see the beast now adorned with a suit of fine silk, finer than anything she had seen at the Merchant’s Balls. Golden rings adorned his paws, and perched between his ears sat a small golden circlet.
The Wolf stood aloft, looking proudly over the land, before turning his gaze back to Jezzabelle.
“Welcome to my court.”
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