My own entry was longer than I felt comfortable posting in a comment. I’ve posted it here. Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments.
Marion’s scream pierced the cool autumn night. The tiny bed where her precious toddler should have been napping was empty. She rolled off the cot and looked around her one room hovel. Where could he be? Her back door whacked against the frame. Oh no. She raced to the door and threw it open. She looked around, but the boy was nowhere in sight.
A set of tiny footprints in the soft mud led away from the house. Dread rose up in her heart. They led into the forest.
She gathered her blonde hair into a barrette, threw on an overcoat and raced into forest. She knew the danger, but it was nearly nightfall. She had to find him before the Kaenidi did. She stroked the fish shaped pendant around her neck, and remembered the words of the red haired Tamer who gave it to her nearly three years ago.
“If you are ever in danger, this Koi will call me.”
She could only pray the Tamer would be close enough if she was attacked by the Kaenidi.
The footprints disappeared as she entered the forest. She picked her way, following the small path that connected the villages.
Just let him be okay.
Just let him be okay.
She stopped and listened as the evening mists moved in. The bushes rustled with life. The nocturnal animals stirred. She had little time now.
Over the hooting of the owl, she picked out a faint cry.
“Luke!” she shouted.
The call came again, and louder.
She rounded a corner, and into a small clearing. There, under a thin tree that had long ago shed it leaves for the approaching winter, she spotted his beautiful head of hair so red it was almost orange. He was petting a brown rabbit, but his eyes were filled with fear.
Relief burst through her like the levies after the spring thaw. She reached out to her son and drew him up to her.
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” the boy whimpered.
She lifted him up to her shoulder and rubbed his back. “I know. It’s okay.”
“But the bunny asked me to follow him.”
“It’s okay, sweetie.”
Her mind reeled. What did he say? No, it couldn’t be. It had to be some child’s fantasy. She moved him to her hip.
“The bunny spoke to you? With words? Like I am now?”
“Not really. I just – just knew he wanted me to follow him.”
A sea of conflicting emotions swirled around her mind. An animal trying to communicate with him meant he had the gift to be trained as a Tamer. She had, all on her own, raised a child who would become a Tamer, despite breaking nearly every law and tradition dealing with marriage and family she knew. Her son would pass the trails, and the honor of his family would come to her alone. The Elders would regret ordering her scourged and her family would regret disowning her.
And then she would never see her son again. That was the Tamer way.
A guttural growl from either side of her interrupted her thoughts. Her time was up, but she did her best to hide her fear. “Come now, let’s get you home. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
She turned, but her path was already blocked by two Kaenidi. They stood on their hind legs and walked liked humans, but the blood red fur that covered their bodies, and their elongated fox-like snout filled with a row a sharp teeth gave testimony to their true nature – feral and deadly.
She ripped off her cloak, tossed the garment at them, and ran. The fish-shaped pendant around her neck started to glow.
The sharp claws of the Kaenidi shredded the cloak. They howled and pursued her. Adrenaline surged through her body as she pumped her legs. If she could just reach the village, she should be safe.
The forest started to thin, but the Kaenidi closed the gap. One leapt and knocked her off balance. She covered Luke’s head as she tumbled to the ground. Her ankle exploded in pain as it twisted under her.
She sat on the ground still covering Luke. The Kaenidi paced for a moment as if trying to decide which would make the kill.
A blur of white flashed between them, and then one of the Kaenidi yelped in pain. Marion shook her head trying to understand what her eyes saw. A small white rabbit stood between them and the Kaenidi. It looked back at Luke and his mother and twitched a whisker at them.
“He says we’ll be okay, Mommy.”
Before Marion could respond, the rabbit attacked the Kaenidi again moving impossibly fast. It hit one and then the other, and then it was back on the first again. It moved so fast it seemed like there were a dozen rabbits attacking.
Marion knew only a Tamer trained animal could move like that, and the Tamer was never far from his animal companions. She spotted him at the edge of the clearing, short bow in hand, a squirrel perched on his shoulder, and his bushy red beard flowing with the breeze.
He sent an arrow through the air and caught the Kaenidi in the thigh. He pointed at the other Kaenidi and an owl dove and clawed into its shoulder. Both Kaenidi turned tail and ran into the deeper forest. The rabbit and owl pursued them, but after a moment they returned to the Tamer.
Satisfied the Kaenidi would not return, he lowered his bow and jogged over to Luke and Marion.
“Are you alright?” The Tamer asked.
“My ankle hurts.” Marion said.
“And the boy?”
Marion checked him over quickly. “He seems okay.” She rocked him until he quieted down.
The man helped Marion to her feet. “What the blazes were you doing in the forest? And at dusk! You know how dangerous it is! If anything had happ-“
“Luke slipped out of my house.”
Luke popped his head up, “A rabbit asked me to follow him.”
“You talked to a rabbit?” A stunned Tamer asked.
The Tamer’s rabbit twitched its whiskers.
Marion smiled at the Tamer. “Seems he can talk to the animals. Must get it from his father.”