Storm-tossed waves broke like a thousand glass shards against the craggy black rocks at the base of the cliff. A sleeping girl, curled among the long grasses, didn’t hear the storm. She was in the midst of a nightmare, tossing and turning. Suddenly, a clap of thunder pierced the night and the girl woke up, breathing heavily. She looked around, although it was impossible to see anything. The moon was hidden behind dark storm clouds that refused to shed any rain. The girl stood up, a wild, yet frightened, look in her eyes. She knew what the storm meant: Beta, along with the others in the wolf clan, was calling her, and they weren’t happy.
The girl broke into a run. She ran away from the crashing waves and the inky sea. She ran through the tall grasses and thorns of the rose hips, never stopping or slowing to catch her breath. Her brown tunic was pressed against her body as the winds whipped her black hair, violently, out of its tight braid. Lightning flashed and thunder exploded, constantly keeping the sky filled with noise. Finally, the girl reached a sand dune that was hidden in beach grasses. Another jagged streak of lightning lit the sky just long enough for the girl to catch a glimpse of the worn wooden door carved with the ancient language of the wolves. This was the entrance to Beta’s lair. She waved her hand over the door, mumbling a strange incantation. The next thing she knew, she had the sensation of being squeezed though a tight tube before landing unsteadily on her feet inside the warren. The candles cast ominous shadows onto the floor of sand. Here and there were the occasional carcasses of unlucky animals or a seashell or two. Standing in the middle of the den was a great shaggy wolf with a chunk of fur and flesh missing from his left ear. He had glowing yellow eyes and sharpened teeth. The wolf started to pace in a circle around the girl.
“Where is it?” growled Beta in a raspy voice.
“I don’t have it, whatever you are looking for,” the girl said, refusing to be intimidated by this ferocious animal.
“Do you dare take me for a fool?” growled Beta, baring his teeth, and his hackles rose.
The girl was tempted to say yes, but she knew Beta wasn’t one for humor. He was twice the size of the girl and could spring at any moment, tearing the girl apart. “I don’t have it,” the girl repeated.
Beta’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t lie to me, Adrin. Remember what happened to your father?”
Adrin broke her gaze from Beta’s. Her eyes grew wide at the memory of how her father had lied to the wolves, just to protect Adrin. She thought back to how the wolves had forced her father out of their hut and started to fight him. Adrin remembered her father battling the clan of wolves, but to no avail. She remembered how the wolves sprung at her father, killing him in one leap. Adrin recalled how the wolves pitched her father’s limp body off the edge of the cliff and into the dark sea below. Adrin blinked out of her trance and continued to glare at Beta.
“Tell me what you seek and you shall have it in eight days time.” Adrin tried to keep her voice from shaking.
Beta sat down and contemplated the offer. “Hmm. The orphaned daughter of my enemy, go and retrieve the lost owl diadem that belonged to every sorcerer and sorceress that ever existed. If she fails, then I’ll take her life. Dangerous, life threatening,” Beta paused and grinned a wicked grin at Adrin, “just what I like. What do you say, Adrin? Do we have a deal?”
Adrin swallowed and wiped her sweaty palms against her leggings. Her father wouldn’t have liked her to work with his enemy. Adrin was fearful for her life. She took a deep breath and nodded slowly. “Agreed. Eight days by midnight, no later. It’s a deal.” Adrin shook the paw of power-hungry Beta.
“See you then, my dear,” said Beta as he disappeared in a whirlwind of sand.