This is part 11 of my ongoing story.
Go to Part 1.
180: I survived the cold.
A warm nose nudged Allyandrah’s cheek. Startling, she squirmed back and shook her head before opening her eyes. The sun glinted off the snow and she was surprised to still be alive, though her body hardly moved from being so cold.
Sasha’s brown eyes stared at Allyandrah. She struggled to move and fight the last of the frozen meat from its hiding place in the snow. She was starting to feel desperate. Setting up fires every night and trying to survive on just a bit of woodsdeer meat was taking its toll on her. Exhaustion lay on her like a heavy blanket. Sasha pawed at Allyandrah’s leg and whined, looking around.
“What is it, girl?” Allyandrah followed her gaze.
Mama was nowhere in sight. In fact, only one set of paw prints could be seen in the snow, now falling from the sky in thick, wet flakes. The prints led away from the tree. Mama had been waiting around until Allyandrah fed her a few bites of meat, but not this morning.
“I meant lead me out of here together,” Allyandrah mumbled. Then she realized that the prints still might lead her out, but she’d have to follow them before they disappeared under the new snow.
Fighting her way to standing and wrestling her hide around her, she picked up Sasha, tucking her into the crook of her arm, and followed the tracks. Allyandrah gnawed on the frozen meat, the cold of it hurting her teeth. She needed all the food she could get into her and right now, this was the only option available to her.
Following them all day, stopping only a few times to either put Sasha down or pick her up. The snow fell more quickly and the wind picked up as the day wore on. She desperately followed, but the tracks were finally all covered just as the sun descended toward the horizon. Looking around, she could barely see anything against the storm. She needed shelter before the full force of the storm hit, but where?
Fear threatened to overwhelm her. Sasha squirmed in her arms and she accidentally dropped the cub. Sasha put her nose to the ground and sniffed around. Turning, she barked at Allyandrah and bounded through the snow, nearly disappearing underneath with every jump.
Allyandrah followed Sasha until dusk. The trees thinned. In the distance, lights glimmered in the growing dark. Allyandrah choked back a sob. Scooping up the tired cub, she struggled through the thick, wet snow. As she approached, she knew right where she was.
A small form sat away from the house, looking in her direction. As Allyandrah drew nearer, she recognized Mama.
“Thank you, Mama,” she said and walked toward the wollo. Mama turned her back and disappeared into the darkness, never once looking behind her, even when Sasha barked. Allyandrah stopped, staring into the place where Mama had gone.
“Just us now, I guess” Allyandrah said. Turning toward the house, she changed her mind. “Maybe not just us.”
She crept around to one of the windows, thickly frosted except in the middle. Peering in, her eyes scanned the room. Kru’Dael’Nah sat on his couch, head in his hands, shoulders shaking.
Allyandrah raced around to the steps and tried to push the door open. It was locked. She pounded on it, clutching Sasha in one arm.
“Kru’Dael’Nah!” she cried. “It’s me! Please! Let me in!” She continued pounding.
The latches sounded from the inside and she stepped back. He pulled the door open, warmth wafting out, covering her. She closed her eyes for a moment, and opened them. His eyes were wet and red-rimmed. Tears stung at her eyes.
“Granddaughter,” he murmured, backing away. She stepped through the door, closing it behind her and setting Sasha on the floor.
A chortle escaped his mouth. “And what is this you’ve found?”
“A wild wollo,” Allyandrah said. “Mama just gave her to me.”
“Mama?” He looked at her.
“Mama wollo, I mean. Came to me with Sasha here, and then this morning, just disappeared.”
“I see, I see, yes.” He knelt down and held out his hand. Sasha barked at him and backed away. “Oh is this how it will be in my own house, little one?” His eyes twinkled. He pushed himself to standing, Allyandrah grabbing one arm to help.
“Come, granddaughter, we must get you out of these clothes. You will make a lake of my entry.”
Allyandrah looked down at the puddle forming under her.
Laughing, they both struggled to get her out of the still mostly frozen outerwear. He brought warm clothes from a back room and she dressed in the middle of the room, away from the puddle by the door.
Sasha sat, watching, from near the puddle.
Kru’Dael’Nah went to the kitchen, pulling a few strips of meat from a jar. He broke them into small pieces and looked at Sasha.
“Perhaps we need a proper introduction,” he said.
He tossed a piece of meat toward her. She rose to sniff at it, then gulped it down. She sniffed around more and then stared at him.
“You want more, do you?” he said and tossed another piece just a pace closer to him. She immediately ate it and stared again.
He went to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down. He placed a piece of meat in his palm and held it out toward her. She hesitated for a moment, then came closer, to a pace away from him, then sat down. She stood and paced around in an arc in front of him, never coming any closer. He tossed the meat to her, and then tried again from his hand. She grabbed the meat and stared at him. Slowly, she crept in, startling every time she almost made contact with his hand. She sat down again and barked at him. He tossed the meat, which she caught in her mouth, then set another piece in his hand. This time, Sasha gingerly took it from his hand and ran back to the puddle by the door before eating it. She lapped up some of the water on the floor then looked back at him. He had another piece of meat in his hand. She ran over, grabbed it, then ran back to the puddle again before eating it. She lapped up more water, then stared at him again.
“No more tonight, I’m afraid. That was the last piece.” He wiped his hands together and looked at Allyandrah.
“I’ll build her trust yet,” he said.
Allyandrah smiled. “It’s good to be home,” she said.
“Ach! Home,” he grumbled, pushing himself to his feet.
He pulled out some food and some plates. Allyandrah rubbed her arms, glad to finally be warm after so many days fighting the cold. Sasha nudged her leg. Allyandrah picked her up.
“Try to not let her pee inside,” Kru’Dael’Nah said, an edge to his voice.
Allyandrah took Sasha to the door, opened it and set her outside. Sasha peed immediately, then hopped off the step, disappearing into the thick snow, their tracks already covered. She burst out of the snow back onto the step, where she sniffed around, then pooped.
“Good girl,” Allyandrah said, letting her back in. Allyandrah went to the couch and sank down on it. Sasha jumped up and curled into her lap, falling asleep as Allyandrah stroked her head.
Kru’Dael’Nah brought some food out to the table.
“We have much to catch up on,” he said. “But first, you survived out there alone?”
“Yes,” she said. “Maybe me, maybe the Guardians, who knows? But I survived the cold.”
To Part 12.
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