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Chapter 2: Insecurity Blanket Wolf in the Fold


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Three:

On People and Their Influence

“Okay, so maybe I am insecure.” Erwyn had been silent for several minutes, thinking about Chesric’s comments. “But what’s that got to do with being nice to Fenoria?”

“You gonna be reasonable, if we start talkin’ about this?”

“Reasonable? You were the one who was yelling.”

“Me? I never raise me voice fer anything.” Chesric’s accent was back in place, and so was his smugness.

Erwyn knew better than to contradict him. It never did any good, anyway.

“All right, I’ll try to be reasonable. So talk. What’s the possibility that I might be insecure got to do with Fenoria being just plain obnoxious?”

“It’s got nothing to do with her behavior. It’s got everything to do with yer reactions.”


“If ye were a little more sure of yerself, a little more comfortable with yerself, ye wouldn’t get so angry at her.”

“You mean I’d just calmly choke the living shit out of her.”

“Lords, boy! Sometimes I think yer hopeless.” Chesric was getting exasperated. His mustache twitched downward when he was exasperated.

Maybe now would be a good time to back off, Erwyn thought. Then again, he wasn’t any better at discretion than he was at diplomacy.

“What I’m trying ta say is I think ye get angry with the girl because she intimidates ye,” Chesric concluded.

“I get angry with her because she annoys the hell out of me.”

“Maybe,” Chesric gave in a little. Which was major victory, from Erwyn’s point of view. “But if ye were a bit less insecure, maybe ye wouldn’t need to get angry to deal with the annoyance. Ye might try to find a better way to handle her. Take my word fer it, quiet solutions last longer.”

“Yes, but they’re not nearly so emotionally satisfying.”

Chesric just shook his head and snorted through his mustache. “That depends on how you go about it.” He kicked his horse into a trot again and headed off to join the rest of the group.

While Chesric went to catch up with the others, Erwyn found himself alone once more with his thoughts.

He considered what the old man had said, and it made sense. Sort of. Okay, maybe Chesric was right. Maybe he did use anger as a screen for insecurity. Only Erwyn didn’t know what to do about it, even if it was true. He didn’t even know if he wanted to do anything about it.

He was saved from having to dwell on the subject by the sight of a dark, four-legged figure running off to his right. He knew that silhouette.

Without thinking, the boy dug his heels into his horse’s flanks and the beast leaped into a gallop. As he chased after the receding figure of the wolf, it occurred to Erwyn that this was a very bad idea. He was alone, he was unarmed—and he couldn’t stop the horse.

He also couldn’t catch the wolf. When Bandal finally decided to slow down on his own, Erwyn was a mile or two from the rest of the group and the wolf was, of course, nowhere in sight.

Whatever possessed him to chase the damned beast, in the first place?

Stupidity, Erwyn decided. Plain stupidity. And as Erwyn knew from personal experience, stupidity is a tough handicap to overcome.

Erwyn finally managed to get the horse to stop near a small grove of twisted, stunted trees. Actually, the grass was probably the reason why Bandal stopped, rather than any action on his rider’s part.

While Erwyn valiantly hauled back on the reins, the horse ambled over to a nice patch of green. Then he gave the boy a single reproachful look and lowered his head to grab a quick snack.

“Any idea where we are?”

Bandal continued munching and ignored the question. Erwyn decide to see if he could find out.

Standing on tiptoe in the stirrups, which he discovered was no easy feat, Erwyn looked around for the rest of his group. He couldn’t see them, of course. He hadn’t thought he would. In fact, there wasn’t anything in sight, except a lot of grass and a few trees.

Well, he’d wanted to have some time to himself. He might as well relax and enjoy it, while he had the chance. It wasn’t like he could actually get lost or anything. His unwanted entourage would probably find him soon enough, whether he want to be found or not.

He slid down off the horse and found himself a seat beneath one of the trees. Leaning back, he looked up into the sky, enjoying his situation. Lost, unarmed, and alone for the first time in ages. It felt great.


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Four:

On How to Have a Safe Trip

The ground was rocky and uncomfortable, and the tree trunk kept sending little shoots of bark out to attack his back. But the sky arched overhead, a beautiful shade of light blue, and the crushed grass beneath him released an early-autumn fragrance into the air. It was so quiet he could hear himself breath. Loudly. Like his mouth was open.


Erwyn didn’t remember opening his mouth. And he was pretty sure that the slurping he could hear between bouts of heavy breathing sounded a lot like jaws smacking. The smell of warm fur and the stench of dog breath was a dead giveaway, too. More importantly, he felt certain it was physically impossible for him to be breathing down his own neck. Especially since he was looking up.

Slowly, Erwyn lowered his eyes to meet the deep amber eyes of—the wolf! The beast stood with her head not ten inches from the young sorcerer’s face. Her mouth was open and Erwyn could feel her hot, moist breath on his cheek. The fact that it smelled like dog breath didn’t surprise him. Wolves. Dogs. He was pretty certain they were related.

The tree carved a bark-patterned groove in his back as he tried to move further away from his visitor.

White fangs glistened wetly in the sunlight. Jaws opened wide. For a moment, the boy thought could see all the way down the creature’s throat as she raised her head, leaned forward—and licked him right smack on the nose.

Erwyn fell sideways.

While he picked himself up off the ground, the wolf decided to get comfortable where she was. Lying down with forelegs stretched in front of her, head resting on her paws, the creature watched Erwyn intently.

The boy stared back. The wolf’s mouth still hung open, her long pink tongue hanging out, and her sides shook. From the sound she was making—

“Are you laughing at me?” Impossible. “Wait a minute! Wolves can’t laugh.” He paused. “Or can they?” Well, Virgil talked. If dragons could talk, maybe wolves could laugh.

“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” Of course he did. But the sleek black coat of the wolf bore little resemblance to bouncy brown curls. And the last time he’d seen her, she had two legs, not four. He still didn’t trust her, in any guise.

Erwyn stood up slowly, eyeing his visitor in case she wasn’t just making a friendly visit. But the wolf didn’t move. The boy began inching his way around the creature to where Bandal stood quietly cropping the grass. The unexpected arrival of the wolf didn’t seem to bother the horse, at all.

Erwyn took another tentative step. Something crunched loudly beneath his boot and the wolf leaped to her feet, growling, her teeth bared.

Erwyn froze.

Bandal chose that moment to get skittish. The normally even-tempered horse neighed in terror. Then he reared, pawing the air for a second before he raced off across the grass.

The wolf growled again, taking a step forward, tensing, ready to spring.

The boy backed up just in time for the beast to launch herself—straight into the face of the guy who was trying to sneak up behind him.

The young sorcerer turned to find himself confronted by six, make that five, of the meanest-looking brigands he had ever had the bad luck to face. Alone. Unless, of course, he counted the wolf.

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