Erin went into the wolf’s lair. The air was hot, damp, and close. She had been on the trail for days, almost a week. It began raining on the second day. The rain turned into a storm by the fourth, lightening for just a few hours as he emerged from the woods and began climbing the hills. The wolf was there. The air was alive with the smell of damp fur. She had no fire, no flint with which to start one. She looked behind herself. A shaft of moonlight cut through the sky and glittered on the rock like a silver knife. Cold crept into her and wrapped its fingers around her heart.
A short dagger hung at her side. Erin unsheathed it, sucked in her breath, and ventured forth into the darkness. The killing of a wolf was a rite of passage for her clan. As her village was one of shepherds and her family tended the largest flock, they had to set an example for the others to keep their sheep safe. Only Erin didn’t feel safe. Erin had asked her mother why she had to kill any old wolf when the one everyone thought about was still at large. It was a few years back when the beast came by their village, nearly as big as a man was tall, and caused much devastation among the herds. That was the one she wanted to take down, but it had passed with that winter and no one had seen it since.
So as Erin’s mother put it, they had to make do with a substitute. She heard a sharp breath echo on the walls. It wasn’t her own. It was deep and primal. The faint outline of the wolf appeared in the cave. The eyes glowed at her. Not the fires of the underworld, but the light from the moon reflecting off its eyes. Erin puffed her chest to make herself look bigger. The wolf lowered its head and let out a low growl, but its posture eased after a few moments. Erin didn’t move and the wolf sensed that she wasn’t a threat. If there were to be a battle, it would have come already. The cold was a bigger danger to the wolf, and it went back into its cave where it was warm and quiet. And Erin went back out into the rain.