There was a scuffing noise from the corner of the room. A little silver fox was awaking form a small bed made from scraps a soft material. The little creature lifted its snout that appeared black and dusty to the rest of his white coat and let out a long yawn, revealing its rows of sharp teeth. Once it finished, it blinked its beady black eyes repeatedly to get rid of the tiredness. But once it had finished it wake up routine, it wasted no time in laying around. Jumping to his feet, he sprang across the room to a mattress on the floor. Under the bundles of blankets was a person, snoozing. The fox jumped upon the heap gently and nuzzled its head next to his owners ear, making soft growls to wake her up. With a slight groan, the girls head lifted from her pillow.
"Noelani," Her tired voice spoke as she used her hand to push her messy hair away from her face. "I'm awake, lad."
The fox jumped away as his owner sat up. Doing the exact same thing that the fox had done a moment ago, the young women let out a yawn and rubbed the tiredness from her eyes.
"My, its cold..." She said with a shiver as she got to her feet. "The fire went out, did it?" She stalked towards the fireplace against one of the walls of the single room and began to poke at the dim embers with a tong. They weakly spat red sparks. As she did this, she felt the soft fur of her fox, Noelani, brush up against her bare legs. She smiled.
"And I suppose that you're hungry, aren't you, Noel?" She asked. Noelani immediately sat down next to her, looking up at her expectantly while he licked his lips happily. She guessed right. "I'm sorry fella. I didn't let you out all last day. I was just so tired," She said while she threw another log atop the fire. A shower of sparks rained down on the floor before their feet. The fox and the girl looked at them for a moment as they faded to nothing. "Oh!-" The girl exclaimed, just realizing something, "It's the full moon. I nearly forgot."
She got to her feet and brushed the ashes from her legs as she wandered over towards an old dresser sitting in a corner near her bed. Noelani curiously watched her beautiful figure as she stepped through the golden glow throughout the room. She was retrieving her favourite dress from within one of the drawers. It was a long, flowing white gown that she only saved for full mooned nights, her favourite time of all. She held the dress up to her body and turned to face Noelani who sat in the middle of the room, gazing up at her.
"What do you think, Noel?" She asked the fox as if he could understand her. And it seemed he could. The way his eyes lit up as he took in her words and the body language he used to respond were quite enough evidence to say that the little creature understood. Now, he responded to his masters words by thumping his bushy white tail against the floor happily. This must have meant that he liked the dress. The girl smiled down at him and quickly put on the gown.
When she was wandering over to the door, Noelani at her feet, anticipating her to open it, she paused and looked out the window. "Oh! The Snowdrop flowers are at their prime. I know just how to turn those to the best of teas. Come, Noel! I'll join you out on the hills while you hunt!" She chimed as she pranced over to a shelf on one of the walls and retrieved a woven basket. When she returned to the door where the eager fox waited, she flung it open and pranced out into the long grass with him.
The girl soon came to a halt and watched her foxes silvery coat disappear through the tall grass as he went off to find a critter to eat. She did not need to worry about him. What she was drawing her attention the most were the little flowers that hung above the ground all around her. The little white blossoms glowed just like Noelani's coat under the full moons light. But these weren't the only things that lit up under the sky of this magical night. Just like her white dress, behind her curly locks of messy, dark hair glowed two pale eyes, resembling little stars. Without hesitation, she began to carefully pluck the flowers from the ground happily.
It must have been in the AM hours by now. The girl sat on the slant of the hill, admiring the skies with the huge moon hanging high above her head. But as she stared up at the beautiful stars, she couldn't help but steal a peek every now and then of something she hated to admit seemed even more beautiful. It was the town. Far down below in the lowest part of all the hills that surrounded. Smoke rose from the many chimneys and the light from the fires within the homes glowed through the windows. All the light of the settlement gathers and seeped up into the night like a giant golden orb surrounding the town. The girl just couldn't help but admire just how amazing and peaceful it seemed form way up here in the tallest hill that she lived upon.
But it was that thought exactly that made her turn her face away and look somewhere else. She knew that was a lie. It was not amazing, nor was it peaceful. Though it looked like a safe haven from afar, on the streets it was quite the opposite. She, herself, had endured the worst that the people could offer. The memories haunted her and made her hurt.
She heard the swishing sound that was something moving through the grass. It was Noelani. Thankfully. The girl was becoming worried as of where he was since he had taken so long. She did not mistake the gleam of his fur with any of the Snowdrop flowers because there were none left in sight. She had picked every one of them. His face peered out through the grass, a bloodied vole clamped within his jaws.
"Well done, Noelani!" She clapped as he trotted proudly up to her. But before he could reach her, a perfect sound pierced the gentle air of the night. A deep, throaty howl. Noelani froze where he stood, both him and his owners breath caught in their throats. It wasn't the first time that they had heard wolves before, but this one sounded very close.
"Come here, Noel," She whispered sharply at the fox as she got to her feet. Noelani did just that without hesitation. With her fox at her heels, she edged forth through the grass, her eyes peeled for the sight of any strange movement through the grass.
"Shh- Noel! Don't be so scared. I can't hear," She whispered back at her whimpering fox. He immediately shut up. She wasn't noticing anything odd around her to signify that there was a wild animal around them, but she couldn't ignore the howl. It was so close. She was about to give up on the search and head back in the direction of the house. Her and Noelani had all they needed. But as soon as she turned away, there was a scream. A child's scream. No, it wasn't a happy, playful scream. It was of pure terror.
"Help!" The child's voice rang up the hill at her. The girl turned and looked back down the hill where she heard it. She couldn't see the child, but she knew that it was there.
"Here! Here!" She called as she jumped at the direction of the child's calls, Noelani right behind her. "Come to me!"
"Help! Its behind me!" The brown hair of a young boys head bobbed up from the grass further down the hill. She could now hear his labored breathing as he tried to escape whatever it was.
"I'm here!" She called at him. She saw his eyes flash up at her and the two of them rushed up to each other. She grabbed the boy by an arm and noticed his tear stained face. "What is it?" She called at him as she knelt down to his eye level.
"A wolf! Its going to kill me," He panted at her in a panicked breath. She then heard Noelani begin to growl at her side. Something was near, the fox only reacted like this when their was a real threat. Without another word, she shoved the boy behind her as she faced in the direction where her fox was snarling. The green eyes almost immediately appeared.
A huge black wolf rose from the grass down hill as he stalked towards the three of them. The girl had encountered many wolves in her lifetime, but never one quite this size. It was ginormous. And absolutely never before had a wolf acted this way, snarling, stalking, acting as if it were about to attack. Perhaps it was. The girl prepared herself for this possibility.
She felt the boy gripping her dress with shaking hands and heard Noelani growling at her side. She was thankful for how protective her fox was over her, but unfortunately, the little critter wouldn't do much good in this situation. If this wolf were to attack, it would barely need to throw the fox a glance. This left her feeling quite on her own. But as she watched the wolf approaching them through the grass, a thought flashed through her mind that made her give a sly smile to the beast coming towards her.
If I were named a monster, she thought to herself, then I should be able to take a wolf...
She was not as alone in this fight as she thought when she felt the full moons light bathing her, her best ally. Standing to her full height and widening her eyes to look like two giant, white orbs, she soaked herself in the magic of the moon. She felt its mysterious power filling her up until it pooled up to her eyes. The pale, silver glow of her irises intensified until per tiny pupils were drowned out in the glow. She felt a sudden breeze hit her head on, causing her dress to flick in the wind. She saw her reflection in the wolfs eyes as it stood only ten feet away. She saw herself standing like a mystic in reality, like a god sent from the moon that hung in the sky high above her. And as she looked into the wolfs narrowed green eyes, they suddenly widened as it stopped dead in its tracks. The snarl upon its face disappeared as it shrunk back, now looking half its size. It was scared. But the girl wouldn't let up. She felt her heart pumping the light through her veins as the glow in her eyes grew even more, so much that it was beginning to blind her from the scene before her. But through the light, she was able to see the dark figure of the wolf turn with its tail between its legs and run out of sight back down the hill. She had succeeded.
With a sudden gasp of exhaustion, she let the light leave her. She felt her eyes returning to their normal size and glow as her vision came back to normal. With each breath she took, she breathed out the soul of the moons light back into the night. She stood still in her stiff position, staring off at the spot where she saw the wolf disappear, making sure that it was gone. After a moment had passed by, she let her ridged body relax a little. Turning her head slightly to the side, she spoke to the boy that still clung to her.
"Are you alright?" She croaked as she attempted to regain her breath.
"Sort of," He replied. That wasn't a convincing answer.
"Did it get you?" She asked as she turned and fixed the boy in her now normal eyes, or at least as normal as they had ever been. The boy hung his head down, not looking at her as he fidgeted with one of his sleeves. She saw the blood soaking it. "Oh my-" She breathed as she knelt down to examine the wound.
Pulling away the ripped material from his forearm, she found the deep gashes that still gushed blood at the slightest touch.
"Claw marks? It didn't bite you did it?" She asked the boy without looking up at his face.
"Yes," He choked a reply though the lump in his throat. At the sound of the reply, the girl pulled her fingers away from the boys injured arm. She knew it was hurting him.
"Come with me, I'll get you cleaned up. You're arm is going to be fine," She said as she stood back up to her full height, offering a hand for the boy to hold. But he hesitated.
"Who are you?" He asked. She smiled down at him. His parents had obviously told him not to trust strangers.
"My name is He-" She was about to speak the word Helena, the name her parents had given her. The same parents that stood idly by as their own daughter was shunned from their society, and also gave a few words to encourage it. The name disgusted her ever since. But she had never introduced herself to anyone after she left the village. Not until now, "-Hesper," She corrected herself. This was the name that she chose for herself.
"Hesper?" He asked curiously. Why wouldn't he? It was the strangest of names.
"Yes, I live up here with my fox, Neolani." She indicated towards the little silver fox that stood next to her. "Don't worry, he's friendly. So am I. I'd wish to help you with your arm if that's alright with you."
"You live up here?" The boy asked in amazement. "You're the witch!" Hesper felt her heart plummet. The boy was no older than six, and he knew about her, a twenty two year old. Those people were telling lies about me to there children? How horrible was that?
"Is that what they still call me?" Hesper asked gloomily, looking off to the side.
"Are you going to cast a spell on me?" He asked stupidly. Hesper glared at him, but didn't retort rudely to match the boys comment. He was only little, and with people feeding him lies, he didn't know any better.
"I'm not a witch, lad." She said firmly. The boy looked surprised.
"But my dad said-"
"Well you're dad is wrong. I'm not a witch. Just... Different. That's all." There was a pause where she gazed down at the boy who was obviously putting his young mind into overdrive to try and piece her words together. Hesper interrupted his thoughts.
"You're bleeding, lad. You need to come with me," She told him firmly. Again, he hesitated for a moment, but this time eventually nodded.
"You promise you're not a witch?" He asked. She nodded with a sympathetic smile.
"Yes, I promise." She vowed as she offered him her hand and he took it. Guiding the boy carefully back up the hill to her home, Hesper turned to Noelani who followed at her side.
"Grab my basket of Snowdrop, will you, Noel?" She asked the fox. Without faltering in his steps, Noel trailed away through the grass to retrieve the requested.
"And what might your name me, lad?
"Oliver," He replied.
Hesper lent over a table which had two blue candle sticks balanced upon it and lit their ends. She tied back her long hair as she lent over the little flames and quietly whispered a few words before she turned back to Oliver who sat on her bed.
"Comfortable?" She asked with a smile.
"Yes, ma'am," He responded. This made her beam. It had been a long time since someone had referred to her so formally. And to come from the mouth of such a young child!
"Now, tell me, Oilver," She began as she went to a cabinet to retrieve some tools to help heal he boys arm, "What were you doing out so late at night?"
"I was sleep walking," He replied.
"You sleep walked all the way up here?" She asked in surprise.
"No, but when I woke up I was out of the town and the wolf was already after me." Hesper watched him as he spoke. He wasn't lying.
"Very well," She sighed as she walked towards him with many bottles full of different coloured liquids. "This won't hurt, Oliver. So stay calm."
He obeyed as he turned to watch Noelani itching his ear as Hesper prepared her healing ingredients. She retrieved a soft white cloth form one of her drawers and began dropping different liquids upon it carefully until she was satisfied that she had the right amount of whatever it was inside the bottles.
"Give me your arm," She said. Oliver put his arm in her hand. There were three claw marks raked across it, all of them had stopped bleeding a short while ago since they weren't as deep as they had once seemed. Without hesitation, Hesper placed the damp cloth over his arm and held it there while she reached for more bandaging. To hold the cloth in place, she began wrapping his arm in another long, white fabric and knotted it nice and tight.
"There!" She smiled as she admired her healing job. "How do you feel?"
"Hungry!" He immediately replied.
"Well I bet you are, but what about your arm, how does it feel?"
"Oh, good!" He realized and smiled. It feels great, actually."
"Well I'm glad. What are you hungry for? I've got some oatmeal, or perhaps some of these freshly picked apples I got from the tree down by the-" She was cut off by Oliver's loud cry.
"Meat!" Hesper turned, surprised as how eagerly he had replied.
"Meat, eh?" She said as she automatically turned over and looked at Noelani to see the bare skeleton of the vole at his feet. She wasn't expecting there to be any of the vole left, and if there was, she wasn't going to feed the child a rodent. "I can get meat..." She said a little reluctantly, looking at the bow with a quiver of arrows hung on the wall that had been collecting dust for many months now. She hoped she hadn't become to rusty at hunting.
She marched over and picked up the quiver and slung it over her shoulder then equipped the bow. "Until I get back, Oliver, you get some sleep there. In the morning I'll take you back to town, okay?"
"Okay." He smiled as he wrapped himself in a blanket and laid down.
"And you, Noel," She began, the fox sat tall, ready for his order, "Stay here and take care of Oliver." The fox understood then headed to his own bed and laid down. Without a second glance back at them, Hesper set out into the night once more.
Hesper stood just outside as she skinned a nice plump rabbit. There was no way she would be dripping blood all over her floor if she could help it, Oliver was a different story though. She sighed as she viewed her kill. She had pierced the rabbit right through the body. Though it was a quick kill, it wasn't quite instant and that made her sad to know that the animal had to suffer for those few seconds. Not only that, but the kill wasn't what you would call ideal. Having a nice big arrow through body ruined the meat. Hesper had once been able to get the animal right through the eye every time but she had left those days behind. She was sure that Oliver wouldn't notice though once it was all cooked.
She slid the best slices of meat into the fire for a little while and threw the scraps to Noelani. Oliver was sleeping soundly under the rising suns light that shone through the curtains of the window next to the bed. She would wake him as soon as the meat was cooked. Maybe if she got him to the village soon enough, not as many people would be awake, meaning there would be less people who would recognize her. She really didn't want to have to face the many familiar faces of the small town, but she did not want to have to send Oliver off alone again. She wasn't certain of how far the wolf had left.
"Oliver, time to wake up." Hesper nudged him. Almost right away, he sat straight up, his nostrils flaring as he sniffed the air.
"I smell meat," He said.
"It's over on the table. It's all yours." Oliver threw the blankets off of him and ran over to the table where he climbed up onto the chair and began eating the rather large plate of meat.
Hesper went back outside where she had left her arrow and cleaned the blood off it quickly and brought it back inside to place it back in the quiver. After she had completed this simple task, there was a loud burp. She turned to see Oliver sitting next to an empty plate. How astounding, she had doubted a child his size could finish that much meat.
"Is there any more?" He asked eagerly.
"No, sorry mate. That was nearly a whole rabbit," She said.
"Oh..." He said dully.
"Don't threat," Hesper chimed, not wanting to waste any more time, "I'm sure your parents will. I'm taking you back now."
"Now?" He asked.
"Yup, are you ready?" She asked as she walked over towards the door.
"But I like it here," He nearly whined. Hesper was surprised to hear this.
"Yes, Oliver. And I have enjoyed having you around. But I'm sure your parents are worried... And it probably won't be settling for them to hear that their son was in the care of a so called witch," Hesper laughed more to herself.
"But you're not a witch!" He protested.
"That's right. And don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you different, okay?" She said as she outstretched a hand for him to take. He hopped off the chair as he nodded to take her hand.
"Can I come visit you?" He asked as they stepped out the door, Noelani following behind.
"Hmm..." She thought, shutting the door behind them, "Only if it is okay with your parents. They can take you up here to visit me any time you like. But I don't want a young lad like you wandering around the hills alone anymore, okay?" Oliver agreed as he let Hesper guide them down the hill back to the town.
There were loud footsteps and frantic voices when Hesper knocked on Oliver's door about an hour later. The door flung open maybe seconds after and they were greeted by a women that had the brown hair and gray eyes identical to Oliver's. This must have been his mother.
"Oliver! Where have you been!" She cried as she swept down and took Oliver away from the grasp of Hesper's hand. Before Hesper could disappear while his mother was distracted, a big man appeared behind the women, and instead of focusing on who must have been his son, he fixed Hesper in his glare.
"You..." He nearly growled. Hesper had recalled seeing this man around when she used to live in the town, but she did not know his name.
"Good morning, sir," She replied as happily as possible.
"What are you doing with our son- dear lord!" He noticed the bandages on Oliver's arm, "What have you done to him, witch?!" He barked.
Hesper felt the anger grow within her, but she held it down the best she could as she spoke. "Saved his life, actually," She said rather casually.
"That's a lie! You did this to him!"
"No, daddy!" Oliver piped up, "Hesper saved me!"
"Hesper?" His father spoke. Both him and his wife looked at her. "Are you, or are you not Helena Copper?"
"I was..." Hesper sighed, looking to the side.
"You're the witch!" His mother shrieked, taking a step back behind her husband who took a dangerous step towards Hesper.
"No, she's not a witch!" Hesper heard Oliver say. She couldn't help but smile at the words. But before Hesper could get caught up in any more trouble, she quickly dismissed herself.
"I'll be going now. I'll see you around, Oliver. Have a nice day folks..." She said as she turned to walk back down the street. She heard Oliver's dad give a growl of disgust as he slammed the door. As Hesper and Noelani began their long ascent back up to their home that they could just barely see up in the distance, Hesper was certain that she wouldn't see Oliver again for a long time.