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A Ghost in the Woods (Laure's Introduction)

Leala Sedai

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Laure hadn't bothered to count days since she had left home.  She wasn't even sure where she was going, what she was looking for, or why she had decided to leave at this point.  It was something about her father not being able to help with her problem...wasn't it?  She was reminded of this problem every day in different ways.  She spotted her golden eyes in the reflection of puddles, streams, lakes, whatever she passed.  She was reminded when she had a violent dream that made her feel like a wild dog.  She was reminded when the few people she did pass would act as if she wanted to harm them.  She was reminded when garbled images, feelings, or sensations would spring up in her mind.  She didn't know what would happen if she pursued that, and she wasn't about to try either.  


About the only good thing that had come from this strange transformation was her senses were heightened.  She could hear someone hunting before they knew she was there, and could therefore avoid them.  She saw albeit slow-moving prey in the woods.  She wasn't a master hunter by any means, but she could at least see small game while it slept.  Even this advantage seemed to have a down side.  She had to stop herself from ripping into the uncooked flesh of the animals she caught.  Sometimes this rage blossomed when she felt threatened by a person, or if she was just frustrated.  The sudden bloodlust would frighten her, and she would sprint away.  


She spent most of her time avoiding people, but sometimes, she needed supplies, and she'd have to venture out into civilization.  She avoided hunting parties, walked clear around villages sometimes.  If, by some strange coincidence, someone did see her, she could hear them talk to their friends like she was a ghost.  She couldn't talk to people like she could normally, she didn't dare talk to the wolves, or whatever it was in her mind, and she was alone.


Maybe she was a ghost.


Her father hadn't followed her when she left, but she sorely wished he had sometimes.  Maybe together they could have figured it out, found a solution.  "Well," she said aloud to herself, "'maybe's aren't going to help."  After long bouts without human contact, Laure's voice was the only one she heard most days.  "Someone else with golden eyes could, though."  Who else had golden eyes and all the strange symptoms she seemed to have?  What on under the Light was she anymore?


She let out a heavy sigh as she flopped onto the ground behind her.  She closed her eyes and just breathed for a minute.  She heard a rustling and knew what was coming before she felt the tugging on her hair.  Opening her eyes, she saw the female wolf who had been following her lately.  The wolf let go of her hair and sat on her haunches.  "That's not what I meant."  She hadn't named the wolf, and couldn't make head nor tails of her attempted communications that she had tried to start, but Laure had the distinct feeling this wolf had a name.  She just couldn't figure it out yet.


Even though this wolf was a mystery to her, with her brown and gray coat and eyes that wanted desperately to help somehow, she was glad for her company.  The she-wolf waited for her to sit up, then headed south again, but only for a few steps.  She stopped and turned her head toward Laure, waiting.  "That does sound preferable to sitting around feeling sorry for myself."  Standing up, she grabbed her pack and slung her cloak over her shoulder, following her enigmatic companion.

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Rhya lounged back against the conveniently placed rock, appearing completely at ease. In truth, she was alert to every sound and movement in the vicinity having been warned some time earlier by one of the local wolves that the Wanderer they were seeking was not far ahead of them. Normally she would prefer to find a clearing where the girl would be less startled by their presence but the trees were packed closely together hereabouts and the path they were on was only visible to one who knew how to see it so the rock would have to do.

Shadow lay with his dark muzzle resting on Rhya's thigh, his golden eyes half shut in pleasure as she idly scratched behind one of his ears but her attention was more on their surroundings and her own musings than on her companion. Questing out from their area of the woods, Rhya encountered many brushes against her consciousness bringing a delighted smile to her lips that made the natural tilt of her eyes even more pronounced. She loved that about Andor. Its wide tracts of farmland, forestry and rural backwaters, not to mention the proximity of the Mountains of Mist, allowed more wolves to live safely. Indeed, in recent years there had been a significant increase in their numbers along with a sense of...expectation. Owen had noticed it too when Rhya cautiously wondered aloud one evening if she was imagining things. He was equally baffled and the topic had eventually been discussed amongst the elders and Council of the Stedding. They'd had to put the issue to one side in the end as the wolves refused point blank to discuss the matter, being unusually evasive.

Indeed, it seemed to her that the whole world was waiting, almost as though it held its breath and in her opinon...

A sharp snap echoed in Rhya's ears coming from some distance away but claiming her attention immediately. It had to be the Wanderer as there was nobody else this far out from civilisation. They were a long distance from even the most outlying farms here, the path they followed barely recognisable unless you knew what you were looking for.

Rhya's gaze dropped and she realised that Shadow's eyes were now fully open, watching her closely.

Now is not the time to be distracted, cub.

She rolled her eyes at her companion's chiding mental tone but left her thoughts to their own devices for a while, concentrating on the task at hand. For Shadow was right. If this Wanderer decided to be spooked or afraid and made a break for it, she was going to have her hands full with containing the situation. She really didn't feel like running at the moment. A mental snort of laughter from Shadow made Rhya's amber eyes twinkle in response.

"Oh hush you! I am not lazy. This girl must be almost upon us and..." Rhya paused momentarily, "yes, she has the female wolf with her but I'm not sure if the wolf has told her we're here."

She raised her still amused glance to watch down the trail ahead. "No mention of madness so that's a small mercy. The wolves would surely have commented." She sensed Shadow's agreement as they continued to sit and wait.

Rhya tended to emulate Owen's tactic of sitting at peace which had worked so successfully in putting her at ease. Of course, there had been other factors in his singular ability to soothe her fears but in general, she felt it was less threatening than appearing fully armed and golden eyed on horseback in front of someone who was all too often on the verge of hysteria, exhaustion or madness. Or all three.

Rhya hastily double checked that her mount was still secured some yards behind her and then brought all her focus to the girl now appearing from the trees.

"I'm Rhya," she said simply, by way of greeting. She was fairly sure that her eyes would tell their own tale.

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