Clan of the Wolf(6)

By: Avery Kloss

“You’d best hurry back then,” she said saucily, an eyebrow lifting.

I grumbled, stalking off towards where the newcomers made their fire, two thin pelts on the ground for bedding. They traveled light, having arrived with only the necessities. Eyeing my approach, Ronan smiled, his face hidden beneath a scraggly beard.

“And what have we here?” He held a sharp-looking piece of stone, his friend, Enwan, slicing through the carcass at his feet.

“My mother bade me to give you this.” I held out the bowl.

“Why, thank you.” He took it, placing it on the pelt nearby. “Who might you be?”

“We met earlier. I’m Peta.”

“Ah,” he grinned, “I remember you now. You’ve had a bath. So, there was a girl beneath all that filth.”

Ignoring that, I said, “Might I cook this here?” I held up the stick. “I’m terribly hungry. I’m ready to eat it raw if I have to.”

He laughed, “Help yourself.”

Several men drew near, impressed with the size of the animal. A small wound near its neck proved lethal. From what I could tell, there was only one such mark. It required a great deal of expertise to kill with a single strike.

The meat sizzled, the smell teasing me mercilessly, as I hadn’t had a thing to eat all day. While they carved huge slabs of meat, handing these to those who came to get it, I ate finally, having sat on their pelt. The man named Ronan glanced at me several times, not having expected that I would stay for supper. He didn’t seem to mind too terribly, a smile appearing.

They hacked away at the carcass, prying meat from bone as they went. With a full belly, the hunger satiated, I sighed with contentment, lying down, and holding my cheek in the palm of my hand. I watched the strangers through the flames, the animal’s breed not recognizable anymore. Feeling lethargic, my eyes struggled to remain open, and I drifted. When I glanced about again, the world had plunged into darkness.

“Oh, no!” Jumping to my feet, I startled Enwan, who sat nearby, tearing at meat with his teeth. “I shouldn’t have slept!” Forgetting the bowl of berries, I hurried to my fire, finding Kia asleep, while Ara yawned, her legs hidden within the fur. “Did you eat all the sweets?”

She nodded. “You weren’t here.”

Distressed and angered, I screamed at her, which made a dog bark in the distance, a man shouting, “Shut up over there!”

Dropping to my knees, I held my face in my hands, tears flowing.

“Don’t be such a baby, Peta. We can find more tomorrow.”

“What’s all this noise?” asked a voice behind me.

I continued to cry, feeling the injustice of not having had a single berry, despite having spent hours picking them. A hand touched my back.

“What’s the matter?”

I glanced over my shoulder, seeing Ronan. “It’s nothing.”

“But you’re upset about something.”

“We ate all the berries,” said Ara. “That’s why she’s crying. She’s a silly girl.”

“We haven’t eaten the ones you gave us.” He tugged on my arm. “Come along. You’re more than welcome to them.”

I sniffed, finding the offer tempting. “I can?” I got to my feet, dirt on my knees now.

“We’ve far too many. Every family in the clan brought them over.”

I would take him up on the offer. “All right.”

“Now she’s learned crying will get her whatever she wants,” muttered Ara.

“You promised not to eat them all. You’ve learned lying gets you everything you want.” I squared my shoulders, eyeing Ara with annoyance. “What do you say to that?”

“Oh, go eat the sweets. I don’t wish to argue with you, Peta.”

“Fine.” I stalked away, as Ronan had left already. Approaching his fire, I glimpsed where they butchered the animal, the ground soaked with blood, the smell pungent.

Enwan sat before the flames, a piece of meat in his mouth. “She’s too young for you, Ronan.”

He laughed, tossing a bone to a dog that loitered nearby. “That’s not why she’s here.” He pointed to the bowl. “That’s yours, I believe.”

I sat on their pelt with my legs beneath me, the bowl in my lap. Using fingers, I ate the berries, which tasted delicious covered in sweet syrup, the concoction making my fingers and face sticky.

Ronan’s eyebrows rose, his expression amused. “Good?”

“Hmm … ” I licked my fingers, having finished the treat. “Yes.”

“You seem satisfied. Will you be quiet now?”

“I will.”

He eyed me questioningly. “Might I ask you something?”

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