AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Fox lifted her head and sniffed the air. “Wolf returns,” she said as she gently swept her tail off the two-legged sleeping beside her. She arched her back which lengthened as she stretched first one hind leg then the other. Then she stood and waited while her body returned to its normal size. Wolf trotted into the clearing. “Good morn, Wolf.”
“Is the two-legged dead?” Wolf asked of Milas, lying on the ground. Her position unchanged from the last he had seen her.
“No. She sleeps. Did you bring Badger?”
“For what good, I know not. The two-legged is but a threat to the Realm.”
“Wolf, you are too suspicious.”
Badger entered the clearing, her body lumbering along the ground on short legs. A coat of brown-gray hair hung on loose skin hiding the muscular body underneath. Furry ears sat on opposite sides of a wide head that narrowed down to a sharp snout. A strip of dark fur lined the top of her eyes and continued down her face before disappearing into the white fur covering the bottom of her chin and belly. And two sharp fang shaped teeth hung from her mouth matching the sharp claws adorning each of her feet. “How is it the two-legged still lives, Fox? The fall should have ended her breath.”
“Her will is strong.”
“Her will or yours?” Badger asked as she approached Milas.
“I helped not,” Fox responded, moving out of Badger’s way.
Badger shuffled around Milas, sniffing and prodding her with her snout. After she had circled her completely, Badger gently laid her head down on Milas’ chest. “Her heart beats strong,” she said moments lately after raising her head. She turned to face Fox and Wolf. “My medicines can do not for her. She—”
“Why do you call the two-legged she?” Wolf asked. “They are not like us with both male and female.”
Badger laughed. “Wolf, you listen to the old fables too much. Two-leggeds are more like us than different. This is a female, same as me.”
Wolf walked up beside Milas. “How tell you?” he asked, his head lowered to almost touching her as he examined the prone figure.
“Please, do not harm her,” Daidam shouted as she ran toward Milas, having just followed Coyote out of the forest.
Wolf reacted instantly, spinning around to face Daidam. Lips curled back and fangs displayed, he snarled at the intruder. “Coyote, you dare to bring another two-legged into the Realm?” he growled, his ears laying flat against his head.
Coyote positioned himself between Daidam and Wolf. “Stand down, Wolf. I found the two-legged at the bones of the Winged.”
“How did you come to be there?” Fox asked Daidam, ignoring the snarling Wolf who continued to glare at the two-legged.
“I followed a path from the bluff.”
“Path? What path?” Wolf asked. “I know of no path. The two-legged does speak true. We must destroy them both.” He lunged toward Daidam.
“No!” Badger shouted. “Wolf, stand down!” She rumbled up to Daidam. “Tell me of this path.”
“I know not of it before it appeared to my eyes. I saw it just as…”
“Just as what?”
“Just as Chaca ordered the guards to kill me.”
“For what crime?”
“For entering the forbidden zone.”
“Forbidden zone? The two-legged speaks nonsense.”
Badger turned and glared at Wolf. “Hush,” she hissed then turned back to Daidam. “The path, tell me of the path.”
“It hung to the side of the bluff, winding its way downward into the Abyss.” Coyote growled. “Airhini,” she quickly corrected.
“If you came down, why did you not return the same?”
“It is no more.”
“What?” Wolf laughed. “More nonsense.”
“Can you not hear as I?” Wolf approached Badger. “The two-legged speaks nonsense. It must be a trick.”
“Hush. You do not know the stories from old as I do,” Badger admonished Wolf. “Tell me, two-legged, what became of the path?”
“It vanished. It is no more.”
Badger looked to Coyote for verification. “Is it so?”
“I saw it not.”
“I must consider these words,” Badger told the others then turned and rumbled back into the forest.
“Do you know of my father?” Daidam asked.
“Father?” Wolf huffed. “Male, like me? That is him, there.”
Daidam turned to look where Wolf indicated. “Father!” she cried seeing the crumbled body. She ran to her father and fell down beside him. Cradling him in her arms, she gazed on the father that was no more. “I will miss you Father. May you serve the Realm well.”
“Realm? What Realm?” Wolf asked. “Two-leggeds do not serve the Realm of Airini.”
Daidam gently laid her father back down before answering. “He is Captain of the Guard, House of Alasdair, Guardians of the Realm of Arhdahl,” she said proudly.
“He is dead,” Wolf grunted, unimpressed.
“He serves the Realm… still.”
“He is still dead,” Wolf muttered as he sat back. “As should you all.”
“Milas? Is that how you call this two-legged?” Fox asked.
Cautiously, Daidam skirted around Wolf. “Yes. Her name is Milas,” she told Fox.
“And your… name?”
“I am Daidam. How is she?”
Daidam dropped to her knees beside Milas and gently placed a hand against her cheek. “How can this be?”
“It cannot,” Wolf muttered.
“Perhaps,” Coyote whispered, “she has powers you know not.”
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