In the tundra, she could see her own breath. It escaped like a faint बादल from her nostrils and floated upwards a few centimeters before disappearing into the pine needles. This high up, those tendrils of breath would be unnoticeable to anyone far below. Below, the crouching snow-covered bushes remained still and silent. No visible clouds escaped them.
An approaching roar drew her attention over the forest floor as a black jeep emerged from the forest. It barreled through undergrowth, breaking through the freshly fallen snow, leaving behind deep tire treads and the reek of diesel. It would be impossible for anyone to miss the monstrous vehicle, especially from her perch, so she knew that she would have no excuse for missing.
The girl took a deep breath as the truck grew closer. Her mind cleared, as quiet as the hibernating forest had been moments before. The truck grew close, and she inhaled again. When it was close enough to distinguish the outline of the driver through the tinted windows, she finally let out the pint up energy from hours of sitting in the पेड़ finally. Sparks exploded in midair just in front of the truck, detonating with a popping sound like आग crackers. The startled driver jerked the wheel to the right and the car bounced a few feet before it slammed into her पेड़ with a crunching of metal and shattering of glass. The girl hugged the सूँ ढ, ट्रंक tightly as the पेड़ rattled hard enough to make her teeth vibrate.
There were a few moments of silence before the front doors opened. A figure dressed in all black tumbled out of the driver’s सीट into the snow. The girl winced and held her breath, waiting. After another moment, another black-clad guard stumbled out of the truck. He clutched a large assault राइफल tightly in his hands. From the inside of the car, the girl could just faintly hear a soft whine. As if it were a rehearsed signal, the bushes below her post exploded with motion. A white blur raced across the snow, bounded over the roof of the truck, and tackled the guard to the ground. The girl gasped as the gun popped in the fallen soldier’s hand. But then the guard was still, and the massive white भेड़िया rose from the snow.
The beast's head snapped toward a low moan from the collapsed driver. Before he could हटाइए toward it, a second, smaller भेड़िया as black as the jeep pounced from the bushes and onto the driver. In a blur of movement that her eyes could never follow, the black animal shifted into a dark haired young man. A चाकू flashed in his hand right before the pommel slammed into the side of the driver’s head, rendering him silent once again. The teenager glanced up the girl with a triumphant smile—and was quickly reprimanded with a stern growl from the tall man who had replaced the white wolf.
“Focus, Petyr,” he commanded and nodded toward the toward the back doors. Petyr nodded bashfully and moved in unison with the man to open the back doors. The girl heard a soft gasp and clinking of metal within. She suddenly found herself leaning आगे and leaping down from her branch. Her stomach dropped as she fell a few feet, then slowed as if an invisible hand had wrapper around her waist. The magical slowly lower her toward the ground so that her feet crunched softly in the snow.
Petyr looked up with a start, his eyes wide with the possibility of her being scolded. But the former white भेड़िया was too busy speaking softly to the truck’s remaining passenger. The girl moved around the teenager and looked inside.
A thick, dividing glass separated the front and back seats. Two rings hung from the glass, and from them trailed chains as thick as the girl’s arm. और chains grew from the floorboards. They latched around the wrists and ankles of the small prisoner in the seat. A final chain from the rearview window latched onto a thick metal कॉलर around the boy’s neck.The child’s green eyes were wide beneath a mop of blonde hair. They were glassy with dark circles under them—the same as most of the children when they had found them.
“Are आप hurt?” the girl asked, the well-practiced Russian words flowing off her tongue. The small prisoner shook his head sluggishly. Beneath his thin, over sized grey uniform, all of the boy seemed the be shaking as the white-haired man inspected his chains. Although he was much younger than the color of his hair suggested, their leader’s expression was aged द्वारा sorrow as he inspected the shackles holding the child’s hands together.
“Noëlle,” a voice whispered behind her. The girl jumped and spun to face Petyr, his white कोट extended toward her. She smiled her thanks and turned, slowly crawling into the truck to cover the child’s shoulders. The कोट enveloped him like a thick blanket. “What is your name?” she asked quietly as the captive relaxed into the warm.
“Timothy,” the boy answered, his voice raspy as if from disuse.
“I’m Noëlle, and this is my dad and my friend, Peter,” the girl replied with her sweetest smile and promised, “You’re सुरक्षित now.” Timothy slowly glanced between them, as if he had resigned to the fact that he had no energy left to fight them even if he had wanted. He watched Noëlle’s father disappear a moment, kneeling to खोजिए the body of the guard he had killed. After a moment, the man returned with a white key card. He waved it over the child’s shackles, and they snapped open.
When the कॉलर clicked open, Timothy slumped forward, as if the chain had been the only thing holding up his heavy body. Noëlle watched her father quickly catch him and carefully pull him out of the car, the boy even smaller in her father’s arms, wrapped in the puffer jacket.
To her surprise, Timothy’s image blurred. For just a moment, his head was topped द्वारा the round, fur-tipped ears of a lynx. She blinked and the boy was fully human again, if not teary eyed.
“It’s okay,” Petyr कहा from where he had come up beside Noëlle, his voice gentle, “It’s the drugs they gave you. आप just need to eat and sleep, and tomorrow, you’ll be able to shift again! For now, the general will carry you.”
Noëlle’s father nodded and passed Timothy to Petyr. In the blink of an eye, there was once again a white भेड़िया as tall as a horse and wide as a भालू in her father’s place. He crouched and Noëlle climbed atop the beast between his should blades. Petry passed up the child, who seemed to relax as the sight of the other shapeshifter.
When Timothy wrapped his arms around her neck, Noëlle glimpsed the red rings of raw skin around his small wrists. She set her jaw as she glanced back at the wrecked jeep and prone bodies, then to the black भेड़िया now watching her. The twisting feelings of both victory and anger clouding her mind seemed reflected in his dark eyes. He huffed softly and turned his back on the wreck, breaking into a run through the snow. As the white भेड़िया started after him, Noëlle held the sleeping boy close to her and let herself turn away from the wreckage and the blood.