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by Margo Fallis
The Reuniting

          Princess Jasmine and Cafania finished preparing a meal of red berries, hazelnuts, and roasted hare, with crispy, crusty flat bread made from the dried, ground roots of dandelions. Fingal and the children lay around the fire, dozing on and off. The two women sat talking about the Princess’s snake bite.

The evil wolf crept out of the forest, deciding to attack while the men were gone.

Cafania raised her head to look up at the stars when she noticed the glowing red eyes against the darkness of the woods. A rush of adrenalin shot through her body. “Jasmine, get the children. Quick!”

     The Princess jumped up, though unsure of Cafania’s plea. “Why? What’s wrong?”

     “There’s no time to explain. Children, wake up. Go into the hut right now!” Cafania shook some of them awake and pointed to Princess Jasmine’s hut. “Hurry!” She roused a few of the others and pushed them out of danger.

Kolin moved in closer. He saw the woman gathering the children, whisking them away into the safety of the hut.

“Hurry! Hurry!” She saw the wolf move in closer. “Fingal! Help me with the children!”

     The dwarf shoved the now screaming children through the door of the hut. The children’s cries of fear echoed through the village. Cafania, Princess Jasmine, and Fingal guarded the door.

Kolin sprang towards them. His jaws clamped down on Fingal’s leg, his sharp fangs digging into the flesh. Fingal felt his own blood run down his leg. He screamed and looked into the wolf’s red eyes. “Help me, Cafania! Help! It’s the wolf with red eyes!”

     Cafania looked for something to beat the wolf. She picked up a fallen branch. She hit the wolf on the head over and over again until it released Fingal’s leg.

Kolin stepped back and let out a deafening roar. Ignoring the whimpering dwarf, he turned and faced his attacker. Snarling and bearing teeth, he leapt at her, grabbing her unprotected neck. His teeth sunk into her flesh. As he readied to tear out her throat, a knife shot from the woods and pierced his back. He let go of Cafania and howled in pain. Turning, the wolf saw Braden, Corin and a large group of raggedy looking men standing around him with spears, knives and clubs in their hands.

Princess Jasmine ran to Cafania and pulled her into the hut. Fingal followed, dragging his damaged leg behind him.

     Kolin jumped twenty feet through the air, landing on one of the men. Before he harmed him, a spear jabbed into his throat. Blood splattered, covering the man with warm sticky liquid. Kolin roared and howled in anger. With the spear still in his neck, the wolf searched for the person who threw it, Braden. His eyes glowed red with hatred and evil. Corin came from behind and slit the wolf’s throat. Its legs collapsed and his body, mangled and mutilated, didn’t move.

     At the same time, in a forest far away, a wolf gave birth to six cubs. The youngest, a male, breathed his first breath of life. His mother looked down at him, licking him clean. She didn’t notice the glow of his deep ruby red eyes.

                   *  *  *

     The children came out of the hut with the Princess and Cafania, who held her throat to stop the bleeding. They stood in silence and disbelief as people walked out of the forest. When they recognized their parents, they rushed into their arms. Parent hugged child; child hugged parent and everyone cried.

     Braden, Corin, and Gorbal listened to Sami telling the other children how the four of them saved their parents lives. He told them about the trolls and how his father nearly died after being boiled alive and how Gorbal used the stone to save his life.

     Princess Jasmine walked over to Sami. She whispered something to him and then the two walked off to the edge of the woods hand in hand. “Their first born child will lead many in peace with his courage, valor and love for others.” Braden and Corin looked at Gorbal. “I promise you that peace will reign in this land forever.” Gorbal shrugged his shoulders and snickered. “I don’t know where that came from. I just know.” Braden shook Gorbal’s hand and Corin slapped him across the back.

     Sami’s father strolled over to them. “Our village can never repay you for giving us back our freedom and our children and my life. Our deepest thanks go out to you.” A tear trickled down his cheek. They nodded to each other, unable to say anything for fear they would cry.

Cafania and a limping Fingal joined them. “Well, here are our returning heroes.” She laughed with joy at seeing them and hugged them both.

“Will you be all right?” Braden examined Cafania’s neck.

“Did you see the wolf, Corin? It had me in its mouth. I thought it was going to eat me. Did you see it? It bit my leg. Cafania saved my life, Corin. She hit the wolf in the head with a branch. Did you see her?” Fingal rambled on and on.

     “We will both survive.” Cafania put her arm across Fingal’s shoulders.

“Come here, dwarf.” Corin scowled at Fingal. He put his chin down and slinked over to Corin, expecting a tongue lashing. Instead, Corin picked him up and hugged him to his body. “I’m proud of you, Fingal!” He put the dwarf back down on the ground.

Fingal, in a limp-run sort of way, ran around the village singing. “Corin’s proud of me! Corin’s proud of me!” A smile of pride spread across his face.

Braden looked at Cafania’s neck again. It was swollen and torn with bite marks, needed cleaning. “That was a close on, wasn’t it?” He rubbed each wound with a corner of his shirt. “We’d better get these washed out.”

She rubbed her neck. “Yeah, it’s a little too close for me.” Braden opened his arms and she fell into them and cried. Braden held her for a long time.

     Gorbal took the healing stone out of his pocket, rubbed it up and down with t he tips of his fingers and then put it back in his pocket. He looked at Princess Jasmine. She bubbled with happiness, healthiness and life. She’d lead her people and they’d love her for it. He saw Sami and his father sitting together on a tree stump talking. Gorbal’s heart swelled with pride and joy. So many lives changed forever and for the better because of the Book of Spells and his knowledge of it. He vowed to study it more and learn of its wisdom.

     The next day the villagers danced, feasted and sang with gratitude. Corin, Braden, Fingal, Cafania and Gorbal joined them. The feast lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. With full bellies, each person retired to their tent and then with the rising of the sun came the time to rebuild. Corin and Braden taught the men to build new and stronger huts. They chopped wood, made bricks and learned how to use new tools. Cafania showed the females how to weave cloth, spin wool, and cook new foods. The children tidied and cleaned the huts and the grounds. Gorbal and Fingal did their part. They gathered the children each night and told them stories, juggled, and did magic tricks. Once again this quiet village rejoiced in simple living and for them, prosperity.

                   *  *  *

     After life in the village settled down and returned to normal, Braden and the others readied themselves for departure. Each longed to go home. Discussing it as a group, the five travelers made the decision to go with the next sunrise. The only one of them not wanting to leave, Fingal, enjoyed his time with the children; perhaps too much. He told the others how Sami ran around with him on his shoulders and played games of horse with him. His greatest reason for wanting to stay, the children, begged him not to go. “Let Fingal stay with us. He’s fun.” Sami spoke for the others.

     Corin, tempted by the offer, thought about Fingal’s mangled leg. “He’d better come with us. I need him.”

     “You need me, Corin? You want me to come with you? You’d rather have me come with you than stay with the children? Did you hear that? Corin wants me with him.

He needs me!” Fingal clapped his hands and laughed. He turned to the children standing near him. “If Corin wants me to come with him, I’d better go. The Lord of the Heavens told me I needed to help Corin.”  The children surrounded him, smothering him with hugs and tears.

     The sun fell below the horizon. “We leave at sunrise.” Braden stood before Princess Jasmine and Sami.

     “I don’t want any of you to leave, but I know you must. How can I ever thank you? You’ve given me back my Princess and my father.” Sami shook Braden’s hand. “What can we give you in return?”

     Braden answered for his companions. “Your happiness is enough reward for us. Take care of the Princess for us, will you?”

     “You know I will.” Sami shook their hands and went off to his hut, joining his father.

     Princess Jasmine wiped tears from her eyes. “I will miss you all. Thank you, Gorbal for using the Healing Stone. Thank you for bringing my people back to me.” After hugging each of them, she turned and left.

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