Evening gave way to early dusk. The shadows under the trees deepened until the back of Aza’s neck began to prickle. Glancing to the right, she could just see the path through the pines.
She wondered if she ought to tell the others to climb into the trees to be safe. No, she decided, that would be cowardly. She had to show Mat and the others that she wasn’t a failure to the tribe.
Aza stiffened her shoulders. She had nothing to worry about, she told herself, nothing would attack two Learnings, would it?
“It’s getting dark,” Anna whispered from behind her. “How much further?”
“Only a little bit further,” Aza whispered back. She didn’t know how much further it was, but it couldn’t be that much further, could it?
Something cracked in the pines beside them.
Aza turned towards Anna, but as she did so a low growl sounded from the trees behind them.
Aza’s mind went blank. She slowly turned around and her mouth went dry as she saw two glowing red eyes peering out from the shadows.
The wolvin padded out of the pines and into the clearing. Anna screamed and turned to run. Before she could even take a few steps the wolvin moved more swiftly than Aza could have imagined. It reared up on its hind legs and swiped at Anna with one of its shaggy paws. She collapsed on the ground in front of Aza and didn’t move.
The wolvin’s nose wrinkled as it snarled at Aza and stepped delicately over Anna’s prone form.
A crashing sound from the edge of the clearing made the wolvin freeze, one paw still in the air. It slowly turned its huge head as Ferrel and Terra burst out of the trees. They stopped quickly when they saw the Wolvin.
Aza stepped backward and tripped. She hit her elbow on a rock and her arm went numb. The wolvin’s gaze snapped back to her, and it growled again.
The wolvin began to pad forward, slowly closing the distance between itself and Aza.
Aza tried to scream, but no sound came out of her mouth.
Out of the corner of her eye she spotted Ferrel, who was slowly walking towards them. Terra seemed to have disappeared.
“Ferrel, help me,” she managed to whisper.
Ferrel stopped walking. Was it just her, or was the look on his face cold and somehow satisfied?
“Ferrel!” She said more loudly, but still in a hoarse whisper. The wolvin was frighteningly close now. Aza could feel its warm breath on her face. Did it know that she was too scared to move? Was that why it was making no move to attack just yet?
As soon as those thoughts entered her mind, the wolvin stopped walking.
For a split second its whole body seemed to quiver with energy as it gathered itself to leap towards her.
Then it pounced.