The young boy ran through the forest desperately.
He could hear the breath of the wolves chasing him. Unlike normal wolves, they did not bark, nor did they howl as they chased him, saving all their breath for the run. He did not look behind, knowing they were behind him was more than an impetus for him to run. The dry branches cracked under his feet even as his breath misted in front of him. Cold wind assailed his face ashe broke free of the forest and began running across the fields.
The harvest had been taken in and thus there was little to impede his way. He was on more familiar ground here. Darting between the bales of hay stacked high, he slowed down just a fraction to make quick, calculated turns. With any luck, he would be across the river before the wolves caught up with him.
Or not, he thought as he came to a stop in front of a tall stack of hay. He was to have climbed up it and thus across the fence, but the shaggy man on top of the hay put paid to that ambition. The man looked down at him and then howled, a long blood-curdling call to his brethren. Other wolves answered him, and he soon found himself surrounded. They growled softly.
“Just a brat, come to steal from the master,” the man growled and then jumped down, coming very close to the boy.
There was a gunshot.
The man turned and snarled as a woman, even taller than him, came up. She wore a fedora and a long coat that reached past her knees. In her arms she carried a sawed-off shotgun, locked and loaded for a second shot. The boy knew he was in for it.
“Let him go, Thomas,” she stood a safe distance away, her eyes on the man and her finger on the trigger.
“He stole from my master!” Thomas, the shaggy man, said.
“Lucas, give the man back what you stole,” the woman’s voice brooked no argument.
Lucas obeyed, removing the thin pack he had carried. He put it down on the ground, making sure to keep it between him and the shaggy man. Thomas growled.
“Now get off my lands, your wolves are scaring my horses,” the woman gestured. Thomas obeyed, but his eyes promised a cold vengeance to Lucas, who simply stood there, shaking in his boots.
“C’mere, Lucas,” the boy obediently went to the woman as they watched the man and the wolves skulk away. She did not move nor take her eyes off the forests until shadows on the ground had lengthened quite a bit, then she startled Lucas by smacking the back of his head.
“Just what the hell were you thinking, boy? That was a completely foolish thing to do! What use are you if you go and get yourself killed for your thieving rush? Tell me!” she didn’t actually give him a chance to speak, instead twisting his ears and making him walk home in that state, with a tirade loud enough to carry down the road, where the neighbours merely shook their head in amusement.
“Are you alright?” the woman’s sister got up quickly from her seat by the hearth, as Lucas was shoved through the door.
“Barely,” was the reply, before the door was bolted.
“I’ll get the carriage,” a child’s voice piped up.
“Stay still, Griselda,” the woman put the shotgun on the table while her sister took out a box to tend to Lucas’ ear.
The woman did not reply, but instead went silent, trying to hear for something. Her sister reached into her apron for a weapon, while Lucas and Griselda went rigid. When the woman was like that, no one moved.
“They’re coming back,” she whispered.
“How far away?”
“They’ll be here before the carriage is done. Horses, now!” the woman grabbed her shot gun and a bag by the door, while her sister grabbed a pack by the hearth.
The two children ran out through the back, where the horses were. The horses were already saddled, but they needed to be unleashed. It was the duty of the children to do that. As they led the horses to the road, they heard the pot crashing to the floor and flames beginning to lick the flames of the house. A moment later, the two sisters came out of the house at a run and jumped easily onto the saddles. Each of them also grabbed a child and settled them on the horse before taking off in a full gallop. They left the burning house behind them.