On a cold autumn day, Katherine was on her way to the hut in the forest that was her and Ethan's preferred playground before he turned it into a laboratory years later. Suddenly, she heard wolves howling in the distance. The two guards guiding her looked around cautiously.
Instead of being bothered, the twelve-year-old Katherine was more curious. Maybe her trust in the ability of the guards was too high that she thought she was completely safe. Anyway, Katherine had never been scared before and took pride in that fact. So, her first thought when she heard the wolves was: do they really look scary up close? Her mother had once drawn one for her to see. She had told her to be careful with these dangerous creatures, that they could terrify even experienced hunters. Katherine, however, had thought that they looked rather cute.
In remembrance of the words of her mother, Katherine tried to restrain her curiosity. She had promised her to not put herself into dangerous situations anymore. Not after her mother found her balancing on the edge of the roof of the highest tower of their castle. It was a challenge by Ethan. He mocked her for being too scared to do this, and she showed him that she wasn't.
Even after ten minutes, the wolves didn't stop howling, instead they seemed to get more intense with time.
"Weird", one of the guards finally mumbled. It was before Ethan got the habit of cutting off their tongues. "What's up with the wolves today? Aren't wolves only awake at night?"
"Right", the other agreed, "Something must have happened for them to be this agitated. Maybe there are hunters in the woods."
"I can't hear gunshots though. It could be a cub gone missing or one of them dying. One less of these sheep thieves would be a good thing."
Cub gone missing? Katherine's ears perked up. If the grown-ups were already cute, how cute would a cub then be? And fluffy... it had to be really fluffy!
With a look at the guards walking in front, she slowly sneaked sideways into the bushes like a crab in a princess dress. She just had to look for the fluffy cub. It would surely be scared if it was alone in the forest. This was an important mission to save the fluffiness!
Just behind the first tree, she stopped and waited for them to go away. They didn't look back once, obviously sure that she would stay with them like an obedient girl. Mind me, most kids her age were scared to be alone in the forest.
When she couldn't see them anymore, she picked up her long skirt and started venturing into the forest. A few steps further, she noticed that her shoes were unsuited for this terrain, and took them off.
With n.a.k.e.d feet, the skirt lifted and a silly grin on her face, she followed the howling sound. If a cub was lost, it wouldn't be too far from the pack.
A few minutes later, she was already half covered in mud, but the howling was much clearer. It had to be here somewhere. The cub or... she could at least get a glance at the wolf pack if she was already here, right?
The curiosity won over her promise. Just a look wouldn't be dangerous... and when would she get such a good chance again?
So, she sneaked even closer. Finally, she saw some fur between the trees and stilled. Silently, she looked around. It was in the middle of the forest, where the trees stood bark on bark. The wolves were beautiful creatures, though she could not see one whole animal, but only the parts that weren't hidden behind the trees. She counted one, two, three... seven of them.
Most had grey or black fur, some with white paws or collars. One of them was so dark that she could only see the reflections of his amber eyes.
Suddenly, the wind turned, and, like on a signal, the wolves stopped howling. The beautiful amber eyes turned into Katherine's direction, and she held her breath. She felt like he wanted to tell her something. In her daze, she didn't notice how the other wolves left. Finally, the amber eyes moved and with two agile jumps the black body vanished inside the forest.
"Hey!", Katherine exclaimed and left her hiding place to run after them. "I didn't even get a good look at you! Come on!"
When they didn't return, she muttered: "Really, what scary creatures? They are just fluffy cowards... the beautiful kind of cowards..."
But then she smelled something that made her frown. Slowly, she turned around and her violet eyes widened.
Several leaves were floating in the sea of blood forming around a small body. The child was barely as big as Katherine herself, but the skin in a ghastly pale white looked highly unnatural.
Katherine clapped her hands over her mouth. No sound seemed to be able to form in her throat to express the horror she felt. Everything seemed to hold it's breath. Only the blood wasn't stopping and kept tickling out of the poor boys body drop by drop.
His wounds were grotesque. It looked like his thorax was burst or ripped open so that Katherine could see the heart... beating slowly. Yes, it was still beating!
Suddenly, time seemed to move forward by big chunk and little Katherine found herself by the boys side, desperately forcing her magic out to heal whatever was left of him. She couldn't remember calling them, but strangely the guards were there and held the boys body parts in place so she could focus on her work. The forest ground was dirty and bloody and she was afraid too much dirt would get into the wounds.
Ethan was there, too. Though her eyes were blurry by the continuous stream of tears, she would still remember that cold look on his face years later as if everything that transpired was a trivial matter. He didn't seem to be affected at all, but if you looked closely, the corners of his mouth pointed downwards a little as if he was displeased.
When she finally fixed the boys body, she fell down unconsciousness. As soon as she woke up again, she found herself in the hut in the forest, Ethan by her side.
He helped her up carefully and handed her a glass of water. "How are you feeling?"
Her eyes roamed around in confusion. "I am good... Where is everybody?"
With a gentle smile, he replied: "Kitty, you gave us all a big shock. Don't you know to be afraid of the wolves? But thanks to your courage, the boy is back to his parents, safe and sound. I shall convey you their thanks. He told us that the wolves attacked him. The hunters are already out to kill those beasts. So, don't worry and just rest. I will be back shortly."
Katherine frowned. The wolves were the ones to attack him? Why would they be still there howling then? But the boy had said so himself. He couldn't be lying, and even if he would, Ethan would surely notice it. So, what Ethan said had to be the truth. Those amber eyes resurfaced in her memory and this time, they caused her to pull the comforter up to her neck. The scene of the boys body was still too vivid in her mind.
When he reached the door, Ethan turned around once more. "About the guards, for letting you stroll around alone they were demoted and sent to another family. I suggest you don't argue with your father about it if you don't want to be scolded."
Slowly, she nodded. Being scolded by her strict father was always bad, and the damage was already done. Her father wouldn't take it back anymore just because she asked now.
Pleased with her answer, Ethan turned away and with it hid the smile out of dark triumph spreading on his face. This little girl would always believe whatever he told her.
Tears fell from Katherine's eyes as she remembered another error she'd made. Although she saved that boy back then, she knew now what really happened to him. He wasn't sent back to his family. Years later she found the boy in Ethan's laboratory. Frey was his very first lab rat. And she'd helped acquire him.
About the guards: wouldn't her father know about her power if they ever came back to the castle? She thought she'd saved a life back then, but instead she'd dammed one and most likely killed two others. Saving someone involved much more than healing his wounds.
This time, she had to make it right. She had to save the man under her hands. But when her power invaded his lungs, she found them filled to the brim with a dark fluid. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't breath like this. Her heart sank. Would she manage to push all of this out before he suffocated?