Sunday, 24 November 2013

Awakening: Rags of Red

This is part III of my series of short stories, which are fairy tale retellings. You can read the previous two installments here:
Awakening 
Awakening: Blood on White Snow


Awakening: Rags of Red  by Laura Greenwood

In a small village near the edge of a wood lived a young girl whose grandmother had given her a red hooded cloak when she turned 13. The villagers had rarely seen the girl without her cloak. But for the past few years there has been an increase of wolf attacks in the woods, and yet everytime the villagers went hunting the wolf, all they ever found was the young girl cowering in fear under her red cloak.

***

I've been given an assignment. I normally don't like being told what to do, after all I am a Princess and I'm over 100 years old. But people tend to ignore the 90 years I was asleep and still treat me like a naive and sheltered 18 year old. I've been told that I have to remove a shifter, but not just any shifter; a wolf. I hate wolves. I hate them the same way a tiger would hate a panther. Wolves are competition. 

I arrived in the village just as the sun was setting and took my place in the village tavern attempting to listen to what the villagers had to say about the wolf. Turns out the wolf is a bit of an enigma. They don't even suspect that the wolf is really a shifter, they just think that little Rosa with the re cloak has terrible luck related to the the beast. 

***

All I was sent here to do was to get rid of the shifter, but I can't just settle for that. I want these people to be mine. I want them to bow down to me and do what I need them to. No not need them to. Want them to. So I offered to get rid of the wolf for them in exchange for their allegiance to me for as long as I should live. They agreed with no hesitation. Fools. The people of this village now belong to Princess Maia of the Darkness. 

***

That night I lay in wait outside Rosa's home and was rewarded by her sneaking out just before midnight. I followed at a distance using my sharpened senses to stay far enough away not to get caught. A few miles from the village, in the heart of the wood, she began to change. In front of me now stood a dark brown wolf howling at the sky. 

It was now or never. I unsheathed the twin daggers I wore strapped to my belt. I was wearing clothes more suited to this kind of thing than the elegant silk dresses that I preferred. Worn in leather, from my neck all the way down to the boots on my feet. Skin tight with nothing that an enemy could grab on to. The life of a Princess isn't glitz and glamour all the time, and Philip likes it best when I return from a job like this. Wearing this. 

Too fast for human eyes to see, the wolf jumped towards me. Good job I'm not human. I dodged the attack, spinning at the same time and slicing at the wolf. Howling it tuned to face me, blood dripping down its haunches. Hurt but far from beaten .The wolf lunged towards me and I twisted, falling to the ground as I did so, hoping to look helpless. That is the thing about shifter predators. Once they think their prey is down they go into blood lust and forget to think. 

I was hoping to use that to my advantage. Closing my eyes tight, to stop any blood going in, not from disgust, I thrust one of my knives upwards into the wolf's heart. I felt the beast shudder as it took its final breath and it collapsed on top of me. Disgusting I know. I'm just glad leather is easier to clean than silk. 

***

Once I had dragged the wolf back to the centre of the village, and with the villagers gathered around, I released the block I had put on the shifter magic and the wolf's body shifted back into the body of the young girl, Rosa. I heard several gasps and saw looks of disgust thrown my way as the villagers took in the battered girl and her ripped red cloak. But it didn't matter. These villagers are mine. Bound by oath and blood.