The guards shackle Wolf. They strip him of his belongings, too, and throw him into the back of a carriage whose windows are lined with metallic bars. His parents watch the scene with horror. Their palms are pressed to their gaping mouths. Wolf can hear them begging Aston’s father—the governor—to reconsider as the floor beneath Wolf starts to tremble.
Their voices fade, he does not get to say goodbye, but that’s okay. Goodbyes are merely a formality here, nothing more, nothing less—it won’t be forever. No matter what, Wolf is sure he’ll be back at his village in six months’ time, with Lir’s hand in one palm, and a sword in the other.
“First time I see one of yous not fighting back.”
Wolf turns. Hidden in the shadows between two wooden benches, is an old, crippled man. His beard is long, his smile a crooked one, and his face is flushed; if it is from disease or drinking too much ale, Wolf cannot tell. “And you are?” Wolf asks, unfazed by the way the man taps his bright orange cane against the floorboards—an accessory he surely stole, considering how little it matches the rest of his filthy, tattered outfit.
The old man takes a bow. “Your escort, my lady,” he mutters.
Wolf frowns. A lady? He certainly doesn’t look the part… then again, he has heard of rumors of humans living in the capital losing touch their roots. Magic.
If the tales are true, they often have strange ways of doing things… To think Wolf would encounter one so soon fills him with both curiosity and mild disdain. “I’m not a lady,” he snaps.
His escort raises a bushy brow. “Ah?”
But Wolf looks away. “Never mind,” he says. He doesn’t feel explaining his people’s rituals to someone who would never understand. If the moon whispers the wishes of unborn children to his village’s shaman, it isn’t anyone else’s business but theirs. As long as the man isn’t holding a knife to his throat, Wolf tells himself it won’t kill him to be misunderstood for a couple days.