The sun was setting as Raphael set up camp. He dug a small hole and started a fire in it. Around the fire, he set rocks to hide the flames as much as possible. He burned the dead wood he had gathered until it turned to glowing embers. The rocks had heated during this time and Raphael hoped they would take a while to cool. Raphael set a small pot on the rocks over the coals to heat some water. They had eaten at an inn late in the afternoon so he decided to forego food until breakfast. Megan, however, needed attention. When the water had warmed, Raphael took the pot over to where Megan was sitting on their blanket. Using a rag, he wiped her face clean. He couldn’t help but look into her eyes as he washed her face. Every time it was the same. There was a dullness in her grey eyes that would not brighten. He started to remember her as she used to be, but the pain became unbearable and he blocked the memories.
“Have I lost you forever?” Raphael sighed and sat in front of her. How many times had he done this, he wondered. It never crossed his mind to abandon her, to leave her with some people who would take good care of her. Even when his father had suggested the idea, he had stubbornly refused. His love for her never allowed those thoughts to remain in his mind.
“Can you hear me, Megan?” he asked knowing that there would be no answer. Slipping the cloak off of her shoulders, Raphael looked at her. The red hair that had once cascaded around her shoulders with a life of its own now hung limp around her neck. Her grey eyes matched the lifeless pale color of her skin. He started to remember how her smile always brightened his day, but the pain lanced through his chest and he shoved the memories aside. Remembering no more the Megan he once knew, Raphael stripped her down and washed her body. Finished, he dressed her, laid her down, and told her to sleep. After putting things away, he curled up next to her and went to sleep.
It wasn’t long before the nightmares started. He was on a grassy knoll and the sun was bright and warm. Megan was walking up the hill towards him when a thunderous storm appeared behind her. He stood and pointed behind her, but was not able to yell a warning. The day darkened as the storm grew. Black masses of clouds broke from the storm and formed a swarm of moving darkness. The swarm of darkness took a humanoid form with claws and sharp pointed teeth. The swarm moved toward Megan. Raphael wanted to go to her but couldn’t as his legs would not obey him. Kell appeared then from the side of the knoll and ran toward Megan.
“I’ll save her,” Kell shouted, but when he got to her he held her in place. The swarm engulfed them both and Raphael could only catch fleeting glimpses of them in the blackness. He saw Megan being ripped and shredded by the claws while Kell laughed. Megan caught Raphael’s eyes and he could hear her pleading for him to save her, but he just couldn’t move. He started to scream when the nightmare ended and another began. He endured them for a few hours before he woke drenched in sweat.
“NO!” he screamed as he sat upright. His chest hurt and his breathing was ragged. The blankets were crumpled in a ball at his feet. He hunched over and drew his knees to his chest. The nightmares were never exactly the same, but the contents rarely changed — Megan in danger, Kell never helping her and sometimes harming her, and him never able to help at all. His nightmares were always about Kell, Megan, and himself, although sometimes others would appear. He didn’t know if Kell was behind his nightmares or if they were just a side product of all that had happened.
“Damn you, Kell! Damn you for all of this,” Raphael muttered as a small part of him still hoped that Kell wasn’t responsible for any of it. “Why, Kell?” Raphael asked the darkness. “Why?” he repeated as his breathing slowed and returned to normal.
He checked on Megan and started back to sleep when he heard a small howl in the distance. It was a mournful, sad cry and it echoed through Raphael’s soul. “He sounds alone and lost,” Raphael thought. “Or maybe it is just my being alone and lost without Megan that is making it sound that way.” Adding a few more small sticks on the embers, Raphael laid down again. Shivers wracked his body as he fought to relax. It was a long while before he fell asleep.
Morning crept into the world in a haze of subdued colors. The horizon went from black to dark purple to shades of blue. Raphael watched through bloodshot eyes as the world around him slowly woke. He watched as the sun came into view and brightened the world. The wind picked up and blew through the trees. Birds started their song and small animals scurried about the forest floor. This was the part of the day that he enjoyed the most. It was as if everything was born anew. Even his nightmares retreated from the morning sun. While dawn rejuvenated him and kept him sane, his love of Megan gave him the courage to forge ahead. He rekindled the fire before he woke Megan. Getting her ready to travel was a routine now and he did it methodically. After their morning meal, Raphael broke camp. After taking a second look around to make sure the fire was out and that he had not left anything, Raphael took Megan’s arm and started walking.
“Magnus,” he thought, “is where I need to go. Someone in Magnus will have a cure for you. Should have taken a boat, but the walk will do us good. Less people and less questions to answer. Besides, I’m used to the woods, now. If only you could move on your own and not by my commands, the traveling would be easier.”
The sun was overhead and shining down brightly, but it wasn’t hot. A small breeze whispered through the trees and flowed softly through the underbrush. They had walked the better part of the morning on a path that looked to be heavily traveled by deer but they hadn’t seen any yet. The path was wide in most places, but where it narrowed Raphael had to guide Megan through. Although Megan could walk, it was only from Raphael’s commands and guidance. She would trip or stumble if Raphael was not careful.
“What a beautiful day, Megan,” Raphael said. He was just about to stop for lunch when there came a rustle not far from them. The rustle came from an area of brush that wasn’t large. “Maybe a deer that was lying down,” Raphael thought. He was about to continue onward when the wind brought a scent of decay to him. His curiosity aroused, Raphael started toward the brush. As he got closer, he saw a large wolf lying on the ground. He stopped and waited a few seconds but the wolf did not move. He edged closer and saw an arrow sticking out of the wolf’s side just behind the shoulder. Dried blood was matted on the wolf’s fur. Before Raphael could move and examine the wolf closer, a wolf pup emerged from the denser part of the brush. It was black and silver and looked unsure of what to do. Cautiously, the pup slowly inched its way over to Raphael. Raphael almost laughed as the pup moved on unsure legs. Little things like a dip in the ground or a branch caused the pup to stumble and almost fall. From the size of it, Raphael would have guessed its age to be about four months old, but from the way it moved it couldn’t have been more than two. It was a large pup.
“Where’s the rest of your pack?” Raphael asked as he bent and offered his hand. The pup stopped and stretched out to sniff his hand. After a long debate within itself, the pup finally came forward and licked Raphael’s hand. Raphael slowly took his backpack off and pulled out a biscuit. The pup was more curious about the backpack and stuck his head into it. Having found a leather strip from inside the backpack, the pup pulled on it. It turned into a tug of war between the wolf pup and the leather strip. The pup pulled harder and jerked his head from side to side. The pup’s grip slipped and it went sprawling backwards to a final upright sitting position.
“What a fierce one you are,” Raphael laughed and the pup gave him an indignant look. The pup started back to the leather strip when it finally noticed Megan. Nose into the air, the pup sought a scent for her, but there was no wind to carry it. The pup’s hackles went up when he could find no scent. Slowly, it inched toward Megan. Once close enough to get her scent, the pup relaxed and sat at her feet sniffing her legs.
Raphael left the pup there and turned to examine the dead wolf. It was a female wolf and a large one at that. For a female, even one that just had a litter, she was large. Raphael wondered if the pack had fallen to the same arrows as this one. The pack wouldn’t have left the pup on its own. Something had happened, he knew, but he doubted he would ever find out. Turning around Raphael froze. Megan was in a kneeling posture in front of the pup. Her hands hung limp at her side and her head was tilted toward it. She had moved without his guidance or command. He blinked and looked again. Realizing that the sight in front of him wasn’t an illusion, Raphael was not sure what to do. It was something she had never done before. Could the pup have initiated her movement or something he dared not hope — that she moved by herself.
“Megan?” Raphael whispered. “Megan?” he said a bit louder but she did not move. The pup began licking her hand and Megan still didn’t move. Raphael went over to her and stood her up. He looked into her eyes and saw only the same lifeless grey eyes. Where once they had been a sparkling green, her imprisonment had changed them grey. He whispered her name and silently prayed. The pup interrupted him by grabbing his pant leg and chewing it. Sighing, Raphael knew he couldn’t leave it now. Bending down, he started to pet the wolf pup. It rolled onto his back and Raphael rubbed its stomach. Raphael saw that the pup was male and knew he was in trouble. “This pup is probably going to grow very fast and very large,” Raphael thought. Taking care of it would be a heavy responsibility once it grew up. Raphael wondered if some god had labelled him a caretaker of innocents. Picking up the biscuit he had dropped and wiping it clean, He repacked it. As he replaced the biscuit, he searched for some jerky to give to the pup.
“Hungry, aren’t you?” Raphael said as he gave it a second strip of jerky. Picking up the pack, he took Megan’s arm and started down the path making sure the pup stayed with them. About a league away, Raphael stopped to make camp. After taking care of Megan and the pup, he went out to set snares. With any luck, the morning would bring fresh food.
When he got back, he found that he was outmatched in the hunting area. The pup had caught several tree rats while he had been out. There was a half eaten rat on the ground and he was playing with another. The rat was dead but the pup would grab it and toss it into the air. Running over to where it landed, he would repeat the process. Finally tired of the game, the pup ate the rat. Raphael chuckled and spread the sleeping bag next to the fire. He got Megan from where she was sitting and turned to find the pup rolling all over the blanket. “Yes,” he thought to himself, “this is definitely going to take some getting used to.” Clearing an area for Megan, he laid her down and covered her with a blanket. The pup moved to her side and stretched out next to her taking up half of the space where Raphael wanted to be. Raphael picked him up amid some growling and moved him to the other side of Megan off of the blanket. Before Raphael could settle in, the pup slid back into the same space taking up more room this time. Picking the pup up, Raphael laid down in his place and then set him back on the other side of Megan. Smiling, Raphael started to curl up to Megan when he felt the pup squirming in between them. The pup was shifting and turning to get in between them. Finally, Raphael gave up and let him lie between them.
When Raphael woke, he realized that he had slept through the dawn. The sun was shining brightly down upon him and it felt good. He felt relaxed and warm. The warmth, he found, came from the pup. It was sprawled across half of his chest, still asleep. Raphael laid there and basked in the peacefulness of the day. Wondering why he wasn’t tense and edgy, he realized that a third surprising event had transpired, or rather had not transpired. There had been no nightmares to endure throughout the night. First had been Megan’s movement, then the waking late, and lastly were the lack of nightmares. “Maybe,” Raphael thought, “things were finally going to get better.” Breakfast consisted of two hares for the wolf pup and biscuits and tea for Raphael and Megan. With a new morning routine and a late rise, the morning was fully gone by the time they left the campsite. Traveling became slower with the wolf pup.
The nightmares continued the next night and Raphael woke drenched in sweat in the middle of the night. The pup woke with him and watched him briefly before huffing and laying back down to sleep. Raphael took the hint and laid down as well. Sleep came easier and it was almost sunrise when Raphael woke. He sat up and started to watch the day begin. The pup stumbled onto his lap and looked up at him. Raphael looked down at the pup and smiled.
” Anam. That’s what I think Megan would have called you. It means spirit or soul or something like that. Megan could tell you the exact meaning. We’ll ask her when she’s with us again,” Raphael told the pup.
Dawn broke and Raphael watched as the sun brought colors and life into the world. This time however, Anam watched it with him.