Harsh wind screaming through the trees jerked Melody from the first dreamless sleep since her uncle and guardian died six months ago. Melody looked around. Where was she? There were no forests anywhere near her home, nor mountains as crooked and jagged as those that towered behind the treetops, dark, looming forms that glared down through thick mist that swirled all around. Melody looked down at where she was sitting. It was the cracked and broken remains of an old pavilion, with two fractured, yet still ornate, thrones. She was sitting in the smaller, more petite throne. Melody spread her fingers across the armrests, and discovered that the thrones were the same design as her swing at home, woven from birch and willow branches. She looked over at the throne next to her. It was woven out of strong oak and stout ash. She slowly stood up and walked down the steps toward the grey-brown grass. Frozen stalks of plants and frosty branches crackled underneath her cautious pace. Something on the ground caught her eye. Melody leaned down and picked it up. The object that grabbed her interest was part of a basket of some sort. The wood was faded and worn from years in the unforgiving realm of nature. She turned over the piece and saw a very faded engraving on it. Melody brought it closer to her eyes and tried to make it out. The eerie twilight didn’t provide much illumination, making the faded engraving even harder to read. She could almost make out the first symbol on it when the icy crack of a twig rang through the still air like a shot.
She whirled around and faced the direction the sound had come from. “Who’s there?”
Silence. Melody could feel a presence watching her, slowly circling her. She turned slowly, following the presence as best she could. Whatever it was, it moved quickly, like a hunter. And she was the hunted. A low growl sounded behind her. Melody turned around and saw a large grey wolf. Its amber-yellow eyes watched her with a frightening intensity. Melody was about to take a step back when a liquid voice ran across the clearing.
“Make no movement, Melody, for your next move could be your last.” The wolf slowly started circling her again. “How have you come here?”
“I…I’m not sure. I just woke up, and I was here.”
The wolf nodded. “And how long have you been here?”
Melody turned so she was facing the wolf. “I don’t know.”
The wolf stopped and laughed. “Rhuest, Queen Melody doesn’t know how she has come back. Isn’t this delightful?”
A deeper and slightly rockier version of the other wolf’s voice floated into the clearing. “Harmony won’t be too happy about that.” Another wolf followed the voice into the clearing and stared at Melody. “Your sister has been trying to get you back here for years. We have to make sure she doesn’t know she’s succeeded, else it will mean your death.”
The first wolf looked around again. “Rhuest, Harmony may already know Melody is here. We need to move her.”
The wolf called Rhuest nodded and looked at Melody. “Well, you heard her. And you don’t argue with the Alpha-female.”
Melody slowly shook her head. “I’m in the middle of strange woods with two talking wolves, and a sister I never knew about that wants me dead. I’m not going anywhere with you two.”
The one Rhuest called the Alpha-female looked anxiously around the trees. “I am called Colleen. Rhuest is my mate. We’re here to protect you from Harmony, your sister. This is why we need you to come with us. It’s safer and warmer in our den. Now come on!” Colleen ran behind Melody and pushed her with her head. Melody stumbled forward and followed behind Rhuest.