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The Way of the Hunter - Rain & Mud (Chapter Twenty-Two)

Alya Elvawiel
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Karnwyr looks from his master to the woman as they walk along the path. Neither of them says much as they travel, but he can feel a strange charge in the air between them, one that isn’t being dampened by the drizzling rain. He has been feeling the electrical tension since this morning, and it is making his hair stand on end.

Where are we going? He tries to ask the woman by nudging her hand with his head. He has grown quite fond of her in the last few days. The master doesn’t seem hostile towards her, and she always seems to have time for the wolf, and frequently gives him very good belly scratches.

Her pat on his head in response feels half-hearted. She doesn’t seem in the mood to play.

He hears the master say something to the woman, and she replies, her tone hushed. They do not look at each other during the conversation.

Suddenly, the woman’s eyes start to leak again. A drop of water tracks a course down one of her cheeks. Karnwyr remembers licking that water off her face yesterday. He had not liked the taste; it was bitter and salty. Why is she doing that again now?

From the master’s quick glance backwards, it seems like he doesn’t like the woman’s eyes watering either.

Is there something wrong with her? The wolf wonders, slightly concerned.

They stop. As Karnwyr moves to sit between the two people, he hears them talking, their sentences short and quite abrupt. Then, they are silent again, and appear to be just standing there in the rain, doing nothing but stare at each other. The air around them grows tenser still, and Karnwyr bristles. He puts his muzzle under his front paws.

Finally, the master utters a few more words, and the woman starts to move away.

Where is she going? Karnwyr tries to ask the master, but he is not paying any attention to the wolf.

The woman stops and turns, and Karnwyr’s ears perk up in hopeful anticipation. She’s coming back! But he merely hears her say something quietly. He doesn’t understand the words, but it sounded something like “Tank yew.”

The master does not reply, only nods, and she begins to walk away again.

Why is she leaving us? Karnwyr wonders, confused. He looks up at his master quizzically.

But the master is just gazing quietly at the woman’s retreating back, the rain dripping off his hood, his expression stony as the rocks the wolf finds around the forests.

And then he smells it: the bittersweet aroma of the master’s sadness, only this time it appears to be growing stronger, until it nearly overpowers all other odours, even the scent of the rain. The wolf lets out an involuntary whimper.

With a sigh, the master starts to walk…

In the opposite direction.

The wolf looks uncertainly from one person to the other, torn between following his master, and going after the woman. Under all other circumstances, the master would have been the obvious choice, but Karnwyr senses that the woman has something to do with the master’s scent of sadness. Even now, it seems like the smell is getting stronger the further they move apart.

Why are you smelling so sad? The wolf is baffled. And why don’t you want to feel better??

At a loss to do anything else, Karnwyr gives up on following either person, and sits on his haunches right at the fork in the path. Tilting his head up to the falling rain, he lets out a long, mournful howl.


The sudden wail of a wolf right behind her causes Alya to spin around. Karnwyr is sitting in the middle of where the trail branches, his head thrown back, baying loudly.

What’s wrong with him? She asks herself. Has he hurt himself? Uncertainly, she just stands where she stopped, gazing curiously at the wolf. Her confusion and hesitation appears reflected in Bishop’s expression, as he, too, has stopped walking, and is looking at the wolf.

“Karnwyr!” he barks sharply. “Come on!”

Incredibly, the wolf ignores his master, as he continues to howl.

Muttering something under his breath, Bishop marches towards Karnwyr. As he nears, the wolf stops yowling and looks at the ranger expectantly.

“What’s wrong with you, dog? Get up!” he orders.

In response, Karnwyr lies down, his head resting on his front paws. Exasperated, Bishop reaches out a hand to seize the wolf by the scruff of his neck, but Karnwyr jumps up suddenly and dodges him.

“By the hells…” Bishop curses, as he tries to grab the wolf again, and again Karnwyr eludes him.

Am I seeing things? Alya wonders. Is Karnwyr actually disobeying his master? The wolf is normally so well-behaved for Bishop that the scene is almost funny; every time Bishop steps towards him, the wolf bounds backwards, as if playing catch-me-if-you-can. The ranger is getting increasingly frustrated.

With a grunt, Bishop throws himself at the wolf in an attempt at a full tackle. Karnwyr sidesteps him expertly, and the ranger lands clumsily in the mud. Alya has to suppress a giggle.

Then the wolf starts running in her direction, his tongue lolling, and he stops right next to her. Alya briefly entertains the notion of helping Bishop catch Karnwyr, but then decides to just watch and see how this plays out.

Bishop is uttering a string of profanities as he picks himself up, mud covering the front of his clothes. When he sees Karnwyr next to Alya, he huffs resignedly.

“Fine, you mutt,” he snaps. “Don’t come! Stay with her!” Flicking as much dirt off himself as he could, he turns and storms off.

But then Karnwyr starts to make high-pitched puppy yaps, and he stops again. As he glares at him, the wolf whines. Alya could almost imagine that they are having some sort of conversation.

Finally, Bishop walks all the way over, and Karnwyr ducks behind her. The sight of Bishop, mud-covered and bested by a wolf, is too much for her, and she laughs.

“Think he likes me?” she asks, as she rubs the wolf hiding behind her. Bishop says nothing, but fixes her with a wilting glare.

Suddenly, Karnwyr pounces on her from behind – hard. She feels the huge wolf’s paws planted in her back before her petite frame is propelled forwards by the momentum. She runs into Bishop awkwardly, and he stumbles backwards. He is just about to catch his balance when Alya spots a flash of grey fur right behind the ranger.

Uh, oh…

Bishop trips over Karnwyr, sending the two of them sprawling onto the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.

As they try to get up, their eyes meet. Alya is so close to Bishop she could almost count the individual golden flecks in his brown irises, and the faint scars on his face. She could smell the leather of his armour, and the scent of the man himself. Her hands rest on his chest, and she could almost feel his muscles flexing underneath the armour…

Then she realises that Bishop’s arms are wrapped around her.

“Erm...” she mumbles, as she extracts herself.

This is awkward…

Before she could get up properly, Karnwyr jumps on them again, licking her excitedly. Despite the compromising situation, she couldn’t help but laugh.

Eventually, they both manage to pick themselves up, bringing a ton of mud along with them. As he brushes himself off yet again, Bishop does not look amused. He glares daggers at Karnwyr, who again runs behind Alya.

Finally, with an exasperated sigh, he starts walking…

Down the trail that Alya is supposed to take.

“That mutt seems to want you around,” he grumbles, wiping more muck off his face. “Guess I have no choice but to come with you. For now.”

“Oh…okay…” Alya surprises herself by feeling glad when he said that. She looks again at the wolf, now innocently sitting beside her, his pink tongue sticking out. Wisely, Karnwyr is avoiding his master for now.

As she falls into step behind the fuming ranger, she picks a twig out of her matted hair.

Looks like I’ll be needing another bath…

The Way of the Hunter Chapter 22 - Rain & Mud © Alya Elvawiel

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