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by Margo Fallis

          Kolin watched in disbelief at what had happened. “My brother and my mother are here. They have come to kill me. I will destroy them first, but not until after I have destroyed those five from Zolfin.” His eyes glowed with evil and his raspy voice whispered through the forest. “I must bring Bramber to the village and tear her eyes out with my claws right in front of her beloved.”

     Kolin ran towards the cave. He motioned for Bramber to climb onto his back once again and then he headed towards the village. They passed tree after tree. Bramber tried to think of a way to escape. She gazed at the treetops as they ran under the canopy of green. If I could only find a vine, or a low branch, then I could grab one and swing off this wolf’s back. Someone would hear me screaming for help. Up ahead she saw what she was looking for. A long, thick vine hung down to the ground. As the wolf drew closer to it, her plan was put into effect. She grabbed hold of the vine, pulling herself off Kolin’s back. She swung herself to a tree and climbed to the top.

     The wolf stopped, feeling Bramber leave his back. He growled as he watched her climb the tree. In a fury he roared; the sound soared through the forest into the village. When he heard footsteps running towards him, he ran back to the hidden cave, leaving Bramber to her rescue.

                   *  *  *

     As soon as Bramber reached the tree tops and saw the wolf running off, she screamed. “Help! Help! Someone help me!” She heard rustling below and cried when she saw the three figures running her direction. “I’m up here!”

     Corin saw her first. “There is a woman in the tree. You two keep your eyes open for that wolf. He’s close.” Corin tipped his head back. “What is she doing up there? I didn’t know anyone in the village was that beautiful.”

     Braden stood on a tree root and looked up. “Bramber? Bramber, is that you?” He saw the golden hair.

     “Braden! The wolf! Watch out for him.” She climbed down the tree and leaped into Braden’s arms, sobbing hysterically.

     “Shh. You’re safe now,” Braden said.

     “I take it you know her.” Corin smiled.

     Bubb chuckled. “It seems as though she knows you. Carry her to my hut. She needs something to calm her down.”

     Braden carried him in his arms. Villagers came running from all directions to see who the stranger was.

     Cafania was especially interested in the golden-haired woman in Braden’s arms.

     He laid her on a thick soft animal fur on the floor, stroking her hair and kissing her forehead.

     She gazed into his sapphire eyes. “I can’t believe you’re here.” She moved in closer and laid her head on his chest.

     Braden’s hair fell over his face as he reached down and cupped Bramber’s face with his hands. He held her, staring into her eyes. “My precious love,” he whispered and bent his head to kiss her. After a few moments he pulled away. His smile melted Bramber’s heart. “Tell me what happened.”

     She explained in great detail. “The wolf came into my hut during the night and grabbed my throat. I thought it was going to kill me right then, but for some reason it leg me go. It made me get on his back and ran. When we were just outside this village, it put me in a cave and left for a while, but came back to get me. I knew I would die if I tried to escape, but when an opportunity came, I had to take it. Braden, the wolf was so evil. I have never felt anything like that before. You seemed to be familiar with the wolf. What’s with the red eyes?”

     Braden started from the beginning, telling her of his meeting with the others, their travels to Zolfin, the fight with the trolls, the snow monster, the whale, and the giant and how they’d come to Pinea to kill the wolf once and for all.

     “You mean the wolf was a person once?” Bramber shook her head, making sure she’d hear right. “And a frog brought his mother and twin brother back from the grave.”

     “Yes, my love. It seems unbelievable, but it was the only way. Come now, we must go to the others and find out what to do.” He pulled her up and opened the door to Padd’s hut where the others gathered and were waiting patiently.

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