When I was younger, I loved reading fairytales. There was something about the magical worlds and brave heroes that captured my imagination. I would often read the same stories over and over, dreaming of adventuring in those far-off lands myself.
As I grew older, I began to rewrite some of my favourites into up-to-date fantasy stories. In these new versions, the heroines were always strong and courageous, and the outcome was always good triumphing against evil.
This particular story is a retelling of Red Riding Hood, and in this story, she is Lena Youngblood, a young woman, a warrior and a knight who is awarded silver axes to fight the werewolf scourge.
Only not everything is as it seems, and when Lena Youngblood is caught by werewolves in the forest, she begins to uncover some dark family secrets.
These secrets will change her life forever and thrust her into a world of action and adventure beyond anything she could have imagined.
A thin child and her thinner mother, both barefoot and in little more than rags, hurried along a muddy street, trying to avoid the worst of the rain.
“I’m hungry, mamma.” The child’s voice was weak, with only the slightest hint of petulance.
“I know, Vivi.” Marta squeezed her daughter’s hand. “We’ll get something soon. I promise.”
“Eat this, clanless!” The shout came as the little girl received a smack to the side of her head.
Fast as lightning, Vivi grabbed the rotten apple from where it had fallen into the mud and returned it hard at the retreating boys, still laughing at their prank. The fact that she hit one of them square in the back of the head did little to relieve her rage.
“Vivi,” her mother scolded, grabbing the arm that had launched the offending fruit. “You mustn’t retaliate.”
The child clenched her jaw, staring defiantly up at the woman. “I don’t see why not.”
“It is not Scatha’s way.”
“Don’t say such things, Vivi. Come, let’s get out of the rain.”
They begged at doorways, receiving a little food but mostly curses. They didn’t stay in any town long enough to be arrested for vagrancy and instead travelled ever further north. With each passing day, the wind cut harder against their skin until it was a relief to cross the threshold and enter the protection of the shadowy northern forest.
“I want to go home.” The girl shivered, pulling her arms tight around her knees as her mother chopped wood with a roughly hewn stone axe. Even the promise of a fire, and a dinner of the two small birds they’d trapped, wasn’t enough to quell her misery.
“I know,” her mother rasped, tired, weak, and barely able to wield the axe. “We’ll find a new clan. We’ll make the forest our home.”
“I don’t want to live in the forest. I want to live in the palace with Papa.”
“You know we can’t.” The woman sighed. “His wife wouldn’t hear of it, for one thing,” she added under her breath.
“Why can’t you be his wife?”
Marta shook her head, downing her axe and gathering the firewood into a pile with some dried leaves.
“I think you’re old enough to understand why.” Marta’s voice strained with barely suppressed irritation.
“But you’re a Wolf, Mamma! You can kill anyone who stands in your way.”
The woman’s dark eyes snapped up. She stared at her cold, fierce daughter. “That is not our way,” she scolded. “That must never be our way. One day you will grow into a Wolf and you will learn—”
“Never!” the child spat at her mother’s feet. “I will never be a Wolf if it means I have to be weak like you.”
The strike surprised even the woman who landed the blow.
The sharp claws of a Wolf had struck out in temper, but the metamorphosis was only for an instant. It was human hands that covered Marta’s mouth in shock.
“Vivi, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I’m so sorry.”
The child scrambled to her feet, cold betrayal in her eyes as she wiped the blood from her face. She stared down at her hands, her eyes filled with the rage of a Wolf.
“Say something, Vivi. Vivi?”
The first blow of the axe was enough to kill. But the child did not stop with one strike.
It was two days later when a thinner, frailer, dazed, and dehydrated child stumbled into the woodman’s village caked in dry blood, with an open wound congealing on her face.
The only words she could mutter as terrified mothers rushed to her aid was; “Wolf. Wolf attack.”