Night was settling on the lone Wolf. He had come a far way. It was slow going to conserve his energies, but he still felt so tired. He’d left part of his heart back there, with that girl he loved. The week had passed too quickly for him. And even though his feelings were “maimed,” he still enjoyed the times better than ever. Prisca Pulleny had been an ever-present companion to the enchanted people and had done much to lighten their hearts. Still, the gravity of what Dylan had to do struck him heavily. He remembered the second night after full moon, when he’d returned to the Gray Pack and given the leadership to Brownie. The new lord of the wolves pledged ever-lasting fidelity to the Lords of Carrock and all but Yashira were delighted. She was an odd-ball anyway and Dylan had a bad feeling about her. Traitor? Possibly, but not certain. Brownie was told to keep an eye on her.
Then, as the week ended, he had a quick talk with Stev.
“Have Tabea meet me at the promontory six days after full moon,” he’d said quietly. “And make sure that she brings some clothes for herself.” The young man nodded and then Dylan had turned and vanished into the forest. That was nearly three weeks ago. It was two days until full moon and he still had a good ways to go. He would have to reach the city gates before dusk. Press on, press on.
Night passed into dawn and now he could see the pinnacles and shining roofs of the city through the high trees. He’d be there by the afternoon if he moved quickly. Good, ahead of time. He came to the end of the woods, overlooking the clear, clean valley. Water flowed from a low grille in the city walls. It was crystal clear and clean, filling a small pond some ways away from where he was standing. He looked up at the sky. It was early afternoon yet. He could take a quick rest. He reached over his shoulder with his head and bit through the principal rope holding the bundle of clothes he’d been wearing on his back. A light shake and they fell on the ground next to him. He lay down in the soft grass and closed his eyes, resting and yet watchful.
A rustling behind him made him look around. His stomach was growling now. It had been four days since his last meal, and that had been very little. He silently rose and nosed through the high grass. Suddenly laughter touched his sensitive ears. What — children? Here? The keen wolf-eyes peered through the plants and there he saw them, two girls and a boy, probably between six and nine years of age. They were dressed in white and playing happily among the tall grasses, oblivious to the fact that day was nearly over and that the Wolf was watching them. Perhaps they could help him get in the city. He glanced towards the setting sun. It would be dark very soon and then he could speak to them like a human being. He growled to himself impatiently and returned to get the pack of clothing. He sat there, staring at the city, and yet listening to the happiness of the children behind him. They had no idea of the evil grasp of the wizard many miles to the north and west.
The sun now hurried to its resting place and vanished. In the same instant the Wolf rose to become a man again. He could hear the whimpering of the children behind him. He threw on his clothes and turned towards where they were. The three of them were huddled together, the youngest girl crying quietly. They were staring towards the woods, as if afraid of what was going to come from there.
“I knew we should have obeyed Mom,” the older girl was saying importantly.
“Will you shut up, Lea?!” the boy snapped back. “If you hadn’t suggested it, we wouldn’t have come out here in the first place. Now the gates are probably shut. We’ll have to sleep here tonight.”
“And what about the wolf that was seen near here a few days ago?” Lea returned, slowly heating up. At the mention of the beast, the smaller girl wailed, wrapping her arms around herself and shaking violently.
“He won’t hurt you,” came a quiet and gentle voice behind them. The boy jumped to his feet, fists raised.
“Who are you?” he demanded, staring at the tall stranger in front of him.
“I’m a friend,” the man answered. “My name is Dylan.” He knelt beside the shaking girl and laid one hand on her small shoulder. The wailing turned to a whimpering, that slowly subsided as she reached out and put her arms around the big man. Dylan picked her up and held her to his chest. Then he reached out with his free hand.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” he told them. For some reason they weren’t afraid of him any more. Lea took his hand in hers and her brother walked beside the wolf-man.
“What is your name, big guy?” the young lord asked.
“I’m Brendan,” he returned. “And that’s my big sister Lea and my little sister Lora.”
“Do your parents live in the city?” The two older kids nodded. “What were you doing out here?”
“Playing,” Lea answered a bit lamely.
“You see, we weren’t supposed to leave the city today,” the boy explained self-consciously. “The farmers have seen some wolves around the area.”
“Some wolves?” Dylan asked, suddenly interested.
“Yes, one of them is really big with a white spot on his chest. The other one is normal sized and has more white than gray and a black line running along her nose and up between her eyes, at least that’s what my Dad said.”
“Yashira!” the wolf-man muttered to himself.
“Do you know them?” Lea asked. Dylan nodded emphatically
“I do. The big wolf won’t hurt anyone, but the little one could be dangerous.” He bowed his head in deep thought and for a long time they walked in silence. They had nearly reached the city gates and these were slowly closing. A young couple was dejectedly turning back to the large gates, hand in hand.
“Daddy! Mommy!” Lea suddenly screamed, tore herself away from Dylan’s gentle hand and rushed up to the couple. The woman knelt and put her arms around her daughter. Brendan just continued walking with the big man until they reached the parents.
“Come quickly,” the man was saying, “or we’ll be shut out.” All six of them hurried up and through the gates just in time. Moments later they closed with a crash.
“Well, here we are again,” the father said, trying to be stern, but elation sparkling in his eyes. “And you, young man and young woman, are in big trouble, but I’m happy that you made it home.” The woman turned to Dylan, who offered Lora back to her. The little girl laughed and clung to her mother.
“Thank you, sir,” the mother said with a glowing smile. “We thought the wolf would get our kids.”
“Actually, he did,” Dylan answered with a smile. “I am called the Wolf. But perhaps you can help me. I’m looking for Savoy the Scholar. Could you point me to his house?” The man looked at him surprised.
“I am Savoy, called the Scholar,” he answered. “Who are you?”
“I am Dylan à Carrock.” The Scholar regarded him thoughtfully for a moment.
“Very well, your highness, come with me.”
The fire in Savoy’s room blazed quietly. Dylan was now sitting in a comfortable chair, a large glass of clear water beside him, while the Scholar tended to the fire. This gave the wolf-man a few moments to observe him. He was a bit smaller than Dylan and his hair was like coal. His swarthy skin told of southerly origins. His beard was well-kept and his brown eyes carefully watched the flames until they leaped the way he wanted. Slowly he stood and brushed his hands over his white robes. There was a small round cap on his head that he now laid aside. He then bowed slightly to the young lord, before taking a seat in an ancient chair. He now regarded the wolf-man, not saying a word. Finally Dylan broke the silence.
“I have heard a lot about you and am very glad to meet you, sir.” The Scholar smiled.
“If it hadn’t been for your wizard’s successful plans, I believe we would have seen each other much sooner, Lord Dylan.” He made a lavish gesture with one hand. “The Lords of Carrock and the Scholars have always been closely acquainted.”
“Is that so? My father told me he’d never met you before, but he’d heard about your being great when he was quite young. I would guess that you are quite old by now.” Savoy allowed himself a quiet chuckle.
“Your father heard about my grandfather, after whom I’m named. I am not quite as great as he was, but I am still a Scholar and I would be glad to put my knowledge to your service.” His eyes narrowed slightly. “I believe, Lord Dylan, that you are enchanted.”
“Why — yes, how did you know?” It was all he do to keep from gaping at this gentle man.
“Your eyes, your hair, and the whole air around you speaks of it. I also know that you want to find out how to break this enchantment. Very well, I will show you.” He rose and turned to a low table covered with a white cloth. He pulled it off carefully to display several small devices. Two were artfully carved and painted wooden statuettes of animals. One was a wolf, the other a cat. Behind both of these lay a clear crystal ball on a black velvet blanket. Savoy picked it up carefully.
“These are exact replicas of the things found in Alick’s den,” he explained. “These are representatives of his power over you and your lady.”
“How did you find them and how do you know about me — and Tabea?” Now the young lord couldn’t keep his mouth shut. The other just smiled gently.
“My lord, I am a Scholar and the Word has blessed me with a very close relationship with him. He told me about your problems and he took me to Alick’s tower room and showed me all these things. He is the one who deserves credit for your disenchantment, Lord Dylan, he and no other. Now watch!” He weighed the crystal ball in his hand for an instant and then hurled it into the flames. There was an explosion and the flames glinted with a bluish light for an instant. As the white and black spots in front of Dylan’s eyes cleared, he could see the Scholar pointing to the two figurines. They had blackened and turned to ashes. Savoy’s face was grim.
“Destroy the center of his power, Dylan à Carrock. It must happen this year, or else you will not be able to stand against the instincts of the wolf. You have only one chance. Do not waste it.”
“Is that all I have to do, sir?” he asked incredulously.
“Yes, but you can’t do it in your own strength, Lord Dylan. The Word will assist you. You already have his power in you as a descendant of the Lords of Carrock, whom the Word himself sent from the North to protect the people of these lands. You have that power and that authority, but they must be under the Word’s authority to work. You have already used it justly — on Tennek.” The Scholar smiled at Dylan’s surprised face. “Oh, yes, I know all about that from the Word. It was correct, as was what you did to your father, even though that hurt you.” Dylan bowed his head silently. Savoy took his seat again.
“Thank you very much, sir,” the young lord finally said. “I have to go now if I want to make it back to the promontory on time.” The other nodded.
“Drink your water first, lord of Carrock, it will give you strength,” he advised. “And one more thing, think twice about bringing your father and his wife back to Carrock. She is more dangerous than you realize.” Dylan nodded and did as he was told. He finished the pure, clear tasting water and rose. Suddenly he remembered.
“And Yashira?” The Scholar rose, smiling gravely.
“She won’t bother you anymore. She’s dead, shot by one of the hunters this afternoon.” He placed one hand on the young lord’s shoulder. “Don’t be sad about her my friend. She was a wolf and not a very noble one. Now,” he continued taking a ring from his finger, “give this to the man at the gate, he will open it for you and you will be on your way.”
“Thank you for everything, sir,” Dylan said as they stood at the front door.
“I’m glad I could help.”
“Will I see you and your family again?”
“Perhaps. We might come to Carrock for your wedding.” Savoy the Scholar reached out and placed his right hand on the wolf-man’s head. “The blessings of the Word go with you and his wisdom rest upon you for all times. Be assured, he will open your way and give you success. Go in peace.” Dylan bowed and left the Scholar’s house, finally sure that he would see the enchantment broken — maybe not in his own strength, but broken and that was all that mattered.