This story was originally published under the title "The Other Wolf" but since several years have passed between instalments I decided to revisit the original chapters and re-publish it under a new title.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the 10th Kingdom characters and I don't make any profit off them.
Wolf had a family once. He told Virginia that his parents had been killed by farmers, but what about the rest of the cubs?
Life for the young cubs wasn't easy, especially when they got separated from each other. It makes no difference if you're human or wolf and how deeply the wounds run when you see your family murdered in front of you.
Leila, Wolf's youngest sister, was 12 when their parents were murdered and soon after was captured by Trolls and taken as their slave to the Troll Kingdom. How did she survive? How did she manage to escape? What became of her afterwards? And will she ever see her beloved brother again?Chapter 1. Escape.
Leila crouched under the stinking bush and held her breath, hoping and praying that the trolls wouldn't find her. She wouldn't go back, she wouldn't be their slave again. She would rather die first. In the last four years she had all of the kicks, beatings and humiliations she could stomach.
"Where's the little bitch disappeared to?"
Leila crouched lower as the Troll King, at the head of the hunting party, stood beside the bush, unaware how close his quarry was. The Troll King was the worst of the lot; he had beaten her for the slightest error, struck her and imprisoned her in a tiny, stinking cell far below the broken-down castle for no reason except to satisfy his own twisted sense of fun.
"She came this way," Blabberwort, his daughter, said, "I can smell her."
Leila squeezed herself into a tighter ball. NonononononoNO! I'm not here, you can't smell me, you can't see me, she thought, her eyes tight shut, sure that at any moment she would feel a hand around her neck and be hauled up to be punished all over again. She had to stop herself from breaking from her cover and running in blind panic. She couldn't, however, stop herself shaking like a leaf in the gale.
"What I'm going to do to that elf-sucking little vixen when I get my hands on her," growled Bluebell, the youngest troll, who was only a year or two older than Leila herself.
Leila allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction. She had broken Bluebell's nose during her escape from the castle.
"She's a wolf, not a fox," Blabberwort said and smacked her brother over the head. Bluebell swore at her and the party moved on.
Leila breathed a sigh of relief and waited for the count of ten after the trolls left before crawling out from under the bush. Maybe she would manage to escape after all. She brushed herself down as best she could. The tattered, dirty tunic she wore wasn't much but it was all she had to wear.
"There she is!" Burley's shout rang out behind her.
Oh no! Leila spun around; the three trolls had strayed behind to smoke a Dwarf moss roll up, and of course they had spotted her. Blind panic gripped her and she took off as fast as she could in the other direction. The ground was rocky and uneven and sharp stones cut her bare feet, but she didn't care, all she wanted was to get away from the trolls crashing along behind her. Her lungs burned as she gasped for air. Her legs felt like leaden weights as she stumbled along. Only the terror kept her going. She would not go back, she could not go back, she would die first.
The thought gave her energy and she picked up the pace, risking a glance over her shoulder as she started up a hill, the trolls were falling behind. Leila gasped her relief; maybe she could escape after all. An instant later, she screamed and skidded to halt on the very edge of a cliff, stones clattering down the cliff face as she knocked them free. Far below a river ran along the bottom of the gorge.
Horrified Leila stared at the torrent, a mountain river running swift and deadly. She glanced back over her shoulder; the trolls had slowed to a walk and had spread out to cut off any escape route. They were stalking towards her, evil glints in their small, piggy eyes as approached slowly from three sides.
"We're gonna have sooo much fun with you when we get you home," Burley said, eyeing her with a sickening leer.
"We're gonna rip your tail off and stuff it down your throat," Blabberwort chortled.
Leila's hand went instantly to her tail, the bushy brush that she had managed to keep whole despite everything.
"We're gonna pull your nails off your toes one by one," Bluebell added. "And then use them to scratch your eyes out."
Leila was frozen with indecision. On one hand was a slow, agonizing death at the hands of the trolls, on the other was being smashed to death on the rocks or drowning in the icy river far below. Going over the cliff had to be better than surrendering to the trolls. She backed up a few paces, her mind made up, and then took a running jump off the cliff.
I wish I had got a chance to say goodbye, Warren, she thought sadly as she hit the water. A moment later it closed over her head.
"What's this?" the old hermit said to himself as he spotted a pile of rags lying on the riverbank, half in, half out of the water. He wandered over to it and poked it with his staff. It coughed feebly and gave a low moan.
"It's still alive!" he exclaimed, "I suppose I had better do something to help it. No, best leave it be," he disagreed with himself, "Push it back into the river, nothing to do with you. Look at it, it's probably crawling with fleas. Now now," he admonished himself gently, "Do good deeds and good deeds will be done to you. Whoever said that was an unrealistic idealist," he scoffed in return. "Better to say 'no good deed goes unpunished'. But where would I be without a good deed or two having been done for me? All I can do is return the favour."
He reached down and took a handful of ragged cloth and dragged the all the way onto the bank. It was wet and dirty and smelled.
"Its got a tail!" he said to no one in particular, poking at the brush, just to make sure it really was attached to the thing and not just stuck on. He turned the body over with his foot.
"Its young, and its female," he muttered to himself. He bent over it, her, he corrected himself, and examined her. She was painfully thin with large bruises covering much of her body. There was a brand on her right shoulder blade, the mark of the Troll King, and whip welts crisscrossing her back.
"Poor little thing," the hermit said and stroked her shaggy dark hair. "Not even a wolf deserves what you've been through. Dangerous though," he argued with himself, "helping you. You're probably wild; tear my throat out at the first chance I don't wonder. No," he convinced his argumentative side, "She won't hurt you, poor thing, probably couldn't even ravage a rabbit right now. Could use a good meal though, and another one after that, and a third one to keep the other two company." He bent down and picked her up with ease. "You're nothing but skin and bone," he said to her, "Come on, I'll fix you up, little wolf."