The Killing of Wolves

Thief and (suspected) murderer Red Riding Hood joins with poor boy Pip on an unexpected journey to kill the Big Bad Wolf. Along the way, they run into a host of fairytale characters and dangerous challenges that they must overcome so Red can have her revenge on the wolf and Pip can go back to the life he used to live. But they uncover more than they thought they would, scandalous secrets straight from the heart of the Royal Family. All of a sudden, they realise the Wolf is not all it seems. Nothing will ever be the same again. Not once the truth is revealed, once and for all...

It's just a draft, so any tips or critisicm would be appreciated. Also, thanks to the Fuzz for making the amazing cover.

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13. Wolf

Red woke; sweat beading on her forehead and breathing heavily. It was just a bad dream. But it had felt so real. She glanced around quickly, as if verifying that she was where she had gone to sleep and hadn’t miraculously materialised in the Queen’s court. Sure enough, they were still in the forest on the outskirts of the First Kingdom. Since leaving the Seventh Kingdom in the clouds, they had obviously travelled full circle, back to their first destination. It felt like years since they’d last been there, instead of the matter of days it had been in actuality. How far they’d come since their first meeting, Red and Pip… Red felt as if she had known Pip all her life and the feeling was mutual. There he was, still fast asleep on the blanket of moss and dew and she did not feel like waking him. They were a few metres away from one another, but she could still hear his light snoring with fondness. She often had to remind herself that he was a child and also that he was different from her. She could roam about nocturnally and did not acknowledge the need to sleep whereas he would be out for a few hours at the very least. She wanted to scold him for it, but she hadn’t had the heart. She could go for a few days without food or drink, but even though he came from a background which was not much better off than hers, he needed the fuel or else he would just not be able to go on. But at least they were both safe. That was the most important thing, to begin with.

   But she had a feeling that what she had dreamt was not just some rubbish her mind had conjured. It had seemed real. It really had. But if it was, then they were in more danger than she could possibly know. The Queen had a plan, whatever it was she did not know. However, for some reason she had inkling that it was not remotely innocent. Something was wrong and it always had been, from the very beginning. She just didn’t know what. It would probably have something to do with what the King of the Seventh Kingdom had said right before he’d died.  “Beware the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom. She is more dangerous than you could possibly fathom.” But what had he meant? There had been urgency in his voice, she remembered that, and it was partially because of this urgency that they were going back to the Fifth Kingdom. But why the urgency? These were questions Red intended to answer, if only she knew how. But as well as answering the questions, she was afraid of what she’d find back in the Kingdom. The last time they’d been there, they’d had a huge shock seeing all the destruction and devastation there. What would they see on their return? Red daren’t think of the horrors that could be awaiting them.

   Pip woke; his eyes bleary and his head all muddled and confused from the effects of sleep. It was just as well- time really was passing at a tremendous rate and Red had decided that it would be best to reach the Fifth Kingdom before nightfall. The journey was long and winding, but so far the entirety of their journey had been anyway. They were both, by now, used to the danger that awaited them at every turn. Pip even ventured that it was exciting, but that was because he was young and naïve. He had no idea of the terror Red had seen- to her, what they’d encountered so far was nothing compared to the visions and memories of the creatures that haunted her nightmares. After all their stuff was packed away, they commenced on what would possibly be the last leg of their adventure. Pip had thought it rather sad that they would be parting soon. Red just wanted to get home as fast as possible, wherever home was.

   They walked a long way without saying a word to one another. The cold winter’s air bit Red’s cheek and so she pulled her crimson cloak over her head, a stark contrast to the glistening ivory snow that surrounded them. She walked silently as a way of keeping her thoughts to herself, at least until she worked out what everything meant and how they all fitted together. Like a jigsaw, missing a few pieces. There was the King of the Seventh Kingdom croaking his warning against the Queen, how it had been she and Pip sent to slay the Wolf, when-with all due respect- Pip hadn’t necessarily come in that usefully at the beginning. So why the both of them together? Red remembered the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom’s words during their last meeting together: “The killing of wolves is a tricky business, I know. But it will be worth it for the end result.” Previously, she had thought that the end result was the peace and prosperity of the Grimm and the Seven Kingdoms, but now she wasn’t so sure. It just didn’t ring true, for some reason. And then there was the huntsman, who couldn’t possibly have just stumbled upon them in the woods by accident, then decided to try and kill them just for the fun of it. There had to be some agenda she didn’t know. All these possibilities swirled around her head, inconclusive and useless, like strands that would not fit together. Until they did. Suddenly, she knew.

   She didn’t know how she knew. She just did. The enormity of it weighed down on her shoulders and she felt herself sink to her knees and the cold ground below. How could she have been so stupid? How could she not have known? Now she knew, it all fit into place, making sense at last. Jigsaw complete, as it were. But knowing didn’t make her in the slightest bit happier. If anything, she felt worse, almost as if she had been punched viciously in the stomach and she doubled over to recover herself from the pain. She knew. She wished she didn’t, she wished she could forget but the memory was seared into her brain forevermore. Red Riding Hood knew. At last, she knew.

   Pip hurried over to where Red knelt, worrying and asking what was wrong. She shook her head, unable to speak by the sheer fury and helplessness that surged through her and was the cause of the angered tears that streamed down her cheeks. How could she have let this happen? He was still unaware and was worried that she had been hurt in some way. In truth, she did feel pain at that moment but not in the way he’d anticipated. “What’s the matter?” he ventured, to which she broke into another lapse of furious sobbing and retching. To him, it was surprising to see the usually aloof and composed Red in such a state, although he’d seen her lose her temper in the Gingerbread House and the forest of the Sixth Kingdom. Nothing could have prepared him for this, however, as the lying, murdering, filthy, thieving peasant (in the Queen’s words) sobbed like a little girl on the ground. It truly was a startling spectacle. In response to his words, she lifted her head and began to explain in a trembling voice what she knew. And he was shocked by it.

   “There is no Wolf, Pip,” she began. “It was all a lie. A hoax. A fraud. A ploy on the Queen’s part to get what she wanted and to leave the rest of us out in the cold. There never was such a creature as the Big Bad Wolf. It was the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom who caused the Dark Days, no matter what we were always told. I hope she rots in hell!” Red was screaming now, pounding her chest to accentuate every word of the last sentence, howling in agony as if possessed by some evil spirit that Pip could not see. She doubled over, clutching her stomach and gasping as if she’d been punched once more in the stomach. “It’s all lies, Pip! Grimm; a place where people wake up every single morning and curse their fate at having been born here! Where stomachs rumble and not one thing can be done about it- you just have to sit there or days with only your own hunger pressing on your mind, with nothing to distract you from it. Where babies cry and mothers have to sit idly by and listen to their children suffer, knowing full well that they can do nothing about it. But you know what I hate most of all about this horrible, horrible place? It’s that every day I walk through the Kingdom and I see people who haven’t eaten in weeks or who’ve been struck down by diseases but have no medicine to heal them. And although all their faces are drawn and gaunt, they all smile and endure through the pain. That’s the worst part. They shouldn’t have to suffer in such a way, someone ought to do something about it… but no-one ever does. They just smile and carry on. And that’s not right! God knows how many times I’ve had to continue hunting and moving around despite severe injuries and fatigue and hunger and thirst and… It’s not right! But we all just turn around and say ‘Hey, who cares if we’re all starving and hurting and slowly dying. That’s life!’ And the sad thing is that it is life. There’s so much horror and fear, but that’s life! But it shouldn’t be! Life should be colourful and noisy and free and teeming with happiness and suffering should not be the indelible part in that process that it is now! But we all carry on, living our lives under the shadow of that god-forsaken Palace, where they all clink glasses and laugh and celebrate because they’re so much better than all of us. It’s not fair, Pip! It’s not fair…”

   Pip wanted to place his hand on her shoulder, but decided against it. At the same time, he was repulsed by the way she spat the words with such venom but was exhilarated by what it was she was saying. The meaning of it, the way she was revolting against the Imperial Palace and everything it stood for was unprecedented, never been done before. But he wanted to know more about the true Wolf. Red continued with enthusiasm, yelling every word with a hoarse desperation. “It’s the Queen. The Queen is the Big Bad Wolf. Her palace, the Imperial Palace, have you ever wondered why it’s so grand? So much more wealthy than the rest of Grimm, whereas the rest of us stew in the squalor of their waste? Why they’re both-her and her daughter-so much better off than everyone else? It’s money. And you might ask where their money comes from. It comes from us. Not any of the industries, none of the businesses, no. It’s the money she gets from her own people, because she couldn’t pay her taxes. So you know what she did? She sent out her men, to burn Grimm to ashes, to steal from the pockets of her own people and to leave them dying in the streets. The destruction we saw back there, it’s nothing compared to what she’s truly capable of. That was just something to hurry us along, to make sure that we wouldn’t come back until we had the Wolf’s heart. But she never wanted for that to happen. She wanted to have us both dead, out of the way and I know she did it before as well… my family. Everyone I loved and held dear engulfed in the flames of the destruction she caused. I’ll kill her! I’ll make her suffer the way she made everyone else suffer! I’ll…”

   Red collapsed into a heap on the floor, sobbing and kicking and screaming. She’d known for a long time the true nature of the Wolf, but it wasn’t until she’d said her theories out loud that she believed them. If they were true, then… Red Riding Hood had known what she’d have to do ever since their meeting in the Imperial Palace recently and the last words of the King of the Seventh Kingdom. She would go now and kill the Queen of the Fifth Kingdom if it was the last thing she did, her last vengeance before being taken by Death. But she no longer feared Death and any trace of clemency she’d had left before was now gone.

   She was going to kill the Queen. And this time, there would be no mercy.

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