Lynx sprints, slipping between the trunks of the conifer trees being engulfed by the growing shadows from the setting sun. She dips to the left, ducks to the right, the undergrowth branches lashing at her, tugging her hair and pulling her clothes. Her feet grow damp from the path as night falls over the forest. Exhalations of mist escape from her mouth and swirl about her as she pushes herself further, demanding her body give more.
The lone howl of a wolf steals into the night, sending a tremor up her spine. Lynx stops running and leans against a tree; she feels her heart thundering, but knows she can’t stop for long. Her keen eyesight catches a flash of movement to her left, another to her right. Straining her ears she waits for a sign; the snap of a branch to the left.
Lynx takes off to her right, dodging through a small gap between two trunks. She scrapes her shoulder, leaving a small piece of green cloth and blood behind on the bark. Honing her senses as she runs, she blocks out the sound of her breathing and heartbeat and concentrates on the soft padding of paws coming after her.
Glancing around her, Lynx catches sight of grey fur. Wolves are running on both sides, funnelling her into a clearing up ahead. She knows if she turns she’ll see more wolves. Crashing into the clearing Lynx stumbles on a broken branch and hits the ground hard. Before she has a chance to react, they are on her.
Pulling her sword from the scabbard on her back, Lynx stands looking at each pair of green and amber eyes that stare back at her. The pack circles closer. She shifts uneasily, eyes darting from one beast to the next.
Teeth bared and growling, the wolves slink forward waiting for Lynx to react. She brings her sword up, preparing for the first attack. She turns in shock at a deeper growl behind her. A wolf is in flight towards her. A startled cry rises in her throat and she topples backwards. Lynx tenses, waiting for the wolf to attack, but instead, she stares wide-eyed as the beast flies over the top of her.
The large black wolf lands between her and the other wolves. It lunges at the alpha of the pack and Lynx’s hope flares. Backing away in an undignified crab-crawl, Lynx bumps into a tree and lets out a startled yelp. One of the smallest wolves of the pack glances at her. She stills. The gangly wolf lopes towards her, eyes watching her every move. The canine tilts its head and an excited yip escapes into the sky, entering the cacophony created by the two dominant wolves fighting. The rest of the pack watches the fight, except the one moving closer to her.
Lifting her sword again, Lynx rises to her feet. The scent of decaying meat from the beast’s open mouth assaults her nose as it draws closer. She swings her sword, missing by millimetres. The wolf lunges and they go down in a flurry of fur and sword, its fetid muzzle grips her leg and Lynx shrieks as teeth sink into her calf.
Tears leak from her eyes, but she grasps the hilt of her sword harder and swings again. She strikes the beast’s shoulder. The wolf lets go of her leg, a high-pitched yelp forces its way from the animal’s mouth. It drops its ears, tucks its tail between its legs and hobbles off into the forest.
Ignoring the burning pain in her leg, she turns her attention to the fighting alphas. Lynx sees her chance to escape. Pulling herself to her knees, she tries to crawl away but her leg won’t work. In a flurry of whimpers and hisses the pack’s alpha jumps over her and disappears into the darkening forest. The pack quickly follow, eerie whimpers and yips filter through the trees around her.
She slumps to the ground in exhaustion. A chuffing from behind her makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end; fear leaps up her spine and she tenses for another attack. Instead, she feels a wet tongue on her leg, tenderly licking at her wound. Lynx scrambles away.
Pressing herself against a tree trunk she observes the beast. Scratches seep blood, matting the onyx fur in places, the downward tilt of his hefty muzzle and the weary look in those deep green eyes. He tilts his head to the side, allowing his tongue to loll out, spittle dripping to the forest floor. Lynx blinks and rubs her eyes. When she looks back, the wolf is gone.
Knowing the other wolves would soon come back; Lynx uses the tree trunk to haul herself to her feet, eyes constantly roaming the foliage for signs of movement. The clearing is filled with the scent of blood but she can still smell the wild musk of wolf. She can’t put weight on her bitten leg; it will need to be set in a splint, so running is out of the question. She sighs and readies herself, if she is going to die tonight, she’ll go down fighting.
A rustling in the bushes across the clearing breaks into Lynx’s thoughts and she tenses. He appears out of the bushes a few moments later pulling on a shirt. He has cuts and teeth marks on him, streaks of blood mark his skin. Lynx stares at him.
“Shoosh,” he mutters and comes to her side, “you must be quiet.” He speaks urgently, leaning to pick her up and swing her over his shoulder. “They will be back soon.”
“What’re you doi-”
Lynx struggles momentarily before allowing him to carry her, the desire to leave the forest and escape the wolves outweighing her embarrassment at being manhandled. They speed through the forest with exceptional speed and accuracy, far more easily than humanly possible. Lynx clings tightly to his shirt, his hands rest against her thighs keeping her in place, while she searches the forest behind them.
“They’re coming…” she whispers when her sharp hearing picks up the snorts of rapidly expelled breath from the pack trailing them.
“I know,” he grunts, jumping over a fallen log. That takes Lynx by surprise, no human could have heard them coming. “We’re nearly there,” he says picking up his pace even more.
He dashes through a gap in the trees without warning, shifting Lynx’s weight; she feels herself slip from his shoulder and lets out a startled cry. Bringing his other hand up to steady Lynx, he continues, charging towards the weather-beaten cabin that suddenly appears in front of him. He barges his way through the door and kicks it shut behind them. He settles Lynx on the bed and with a nod turns and goes straight out the door.
“Wait!” Lynx cries. She waits and listens as the pack close in on the cabin, yips and growls erupting into the night. Scratches accompanied by excited whines filter through the small gaps in the walls.
The sounds fade; Lynx shivers, wipes her eyes and lays down to rest. She relaxes her muscles and tries to steady her breathing. Giving into exhaustion, she slips into a deep but troubled sleep with thoughts of the mystery man heavy upon her mind.
The morning sun shines through a crack in the window shutter; the breeze outside shakes the treetops, causing a stream of light to slash across Lynx’s closed eyes. She snorts in surprise, followed quickly by a groan of agony as her hazy mind catches up with the soreness of her body.
Bumps and bruises scream in protest as she moves to sit in the bed. Loudest of all is the searing pain radiating from her mauled left leg. Lynx inspects the puffy area around the wound and lets out a hiss. A dribble of blood escapes from the gash as her fingers assess the extent of the damage. A slight shift in weight on the dusty floorboards in the cabin causes her to tense.
She glances up to see him scrutinizing her, leaning against the bench in the kitchenette across the room. His shirt is torn and bloody in places and his long stringy brown hair hangs partially over his face.
“You! You’re…” Lynx blushes as she notices that his deep, soulful green eyes are flecked with gold.
Those beautiful eyes that are both innocent and sinister call to her at the most primal level. She fights the urge to run to him, while her brain advises her to take caution. A scowl of confusion spreads across Lynx’s face. A small smile blossoms upon his lips.
“What?” Lynx demands with all the force she can. Her fingers tingle with the urge to draw her sword.
His eyes turn hard and the liquid feeling in Lynx’s stomach settles. Her hand shifts toward her sword again, stopping short when he emits a low growl. Her eyes flick around the room taking in potential weapons, weighing up her options if she has to engage in a fight with this growling, green-eyed man.
A deeper more menacing growl escapes his throat as he watches her size him up, preparing to fight.
“I won’t hurt you.” He sighs softly, knowing Lynx’s elf hearing will pick it up. Lynx cocks an eyebrow at him in response. “How’s your leg?” He asks wanting to bridge the gaping space between them.
Lynx relaxes, shifting her eyes to the torn leggings. She is unsure if she should trust this man. He did save her from the wolves, but he also left her alone in the cabin afterwards. She reaches down to touch her leg again and steals a glance at him. He is still watching her intently, waiting for an answer.
“I smell infection,” he offers.
“Turn around,” she says capturing him with her serious gaze. He turns to face the kitchen. She sits, watching him for a few heartbeats before she begins to remove her leggings. Her right leg slips out with little problem, but as she begins removing the fabric from her left leg she winces. Some of the material is pushed into the bite and overnight the wound started to close over it. Mentally kicking herself for not addressing her leg before she slept, Lynx considered what to do.
“Do you have a knife?” She asks. He nods, still with his back to her. Rolling her eyes, she sighs exasperatedly. “Can you bring it here?”
“But you told me to not look,” Lynx stiffens at his reply hearing the mirth in his voice.
“Do you find this funny?”
“Are you always this hostile to someone who saved your life?” he asks, turning to face her, a smile upon his lips. “Or is it just me?” Lynx bristles at his obvious amusement.
“It’s just you,” her answer eliciting an even bigger smile from him. “Just give me the knife already,”
He moves silently over to the bed unsheathing a deadly looking hunting knife from his leg holster and hands it to her handle first. “Did you want a hand?” Lynx takes the knife from him and begins cutting the fabric of her leggings above her knee careful to not tug on what is caught in the wound. “I’m going to wash up,” he shrugs and walks out of the cabin letting the door slam behind him.
“Who are you?” Lynx murmurs to herself staring at the door, the knife poised above her leg. He leaves her feeling confused, her emotions a tumultuous mess and she isn’t sure why. She feels that this man is important somehow, but the reason why is lost to her.
Shaking her head to free her mind of thoughts of him, she resumes cutting the material from her leg.