“No! Argos, Please! You can’t go!” cried a boy.
The wolf struggled to lift its head as he became weaker and weaker. Nuzzling his head into the boy’s chest, tears dripped onto his fur. He lifted his paw and sat it in his friend’s hand.
“Argos you can’t go. I need you here. We have so many more adventures to go on!” sobbed the boy.
Argos whimpered and panted.
“You have to save him!” screamed the boy.
“Cassian, look at me. There is nothing I can do. It will be alright,” whisper a soft, tired woman.
“He is my only friend! I can’t leave without him.”
“Sometimes, what we think is our last farewell, isn’t even close.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, if you have hope, that we will all see each other again one day.”
Cassian stroked Argos’s long white strip of fur that made him different, and whispered their favorite song;
“Save the wind, Save and mend,
Try to restore not confine.
Theia leads far and wide.
Free her before our divinity dies.
Tears will fall, but we’ll stand tall.
Oh, follow the gloomy skies.
Take with you, whom you do trust,
And hold her light in hand.”
The tears multiplied and everything became damp. It became tougher to breathe for Argos and he felt his eyelids getting heavier. He lifted his paw and touched the boy's necklace. The dagger like claws cut the chain a flawless charm hung on. It crashed to the floor. Who once was Cassian, was now revealed to his true self.
“See Audrey, Argos will never forget either of who you are. He will always be with you,” the woman said.
Audrey, who was once Cassian, began to dry her tears. The woman took a strip of hide from a basket and slipped the fallen amulet onto it. Quickly, she threw a pitcher of water onto the dim fire. In the distance you could hear a cluster of horse hooves beating the ground.
“Where are they?” men’s voices called from the distance.
In the background of all the yelling Audrey, could hear bells. Bells of unusual ringing. Almost like whistling.
“It’s time to go Audrey,” whispered the woman.
“No! I can’t leave him!” Audrey screamed, “Mom please!”
“It’s time! Put your coat on now!”
“I love you, Argos. We will find each other again one day,” Audrey mumbled as she slipped a tag on the wolf’s collar.
She stood up and her mother slipped the amulet back over her neck. Cassian. Argos lay there on the dirt floor, struggling to breath, slipping slowly into her light.
• • •
“Mother, may I go out to practice shooting ?”
“Cassian, is this just a plot to go out and search for Argos? I have told you an abundance of times, he is gone. It has been three years since the last time we saw him.”
“But mother, when we went back to see if he was still there, his body was gone! Dead bodies cannot just get up and prance off! I’m sure he is out there!”
“There are also such things as scavengers, and mind you the people who wanted him in the first place! So much destruction over a Maned Wolf!”
There was a pause.
“Go on,” Cassian’s mother whispered.
“Thank you. Maura, notify the hostler to have Bülent ready by noon.”
“Yes, your highness,” Maura responded
A few hours later, Cassian dressed in his ordinary clothes, which was nothing but an old pair of slacks, a button down shirt, and over coat with patches, signaling who he was, and boots.He also grabbed his watch, and satchel which held a map, compass, and castle keys. The clank of his boots filled the Great Hall.
“Is she ready?” Cassian said to the hostler.
“Yes, your highness,” responded the hostler.
“Is the saddle filled?”
“Yes, your highness. Miss Maura was sure to remind me.”
“Thank you. I’ll be back by tomorrow at the latest. Don’t tell my mother or father. If they question you, say I’ve returned.”
“Yes, your highness.”
“And please Clément, we’re friends, call me Cassian.”
Slowly guiding the huge Clydesdale out of the stable, they broke out into a run as they exited to castle walls. The forest Cassian guided Bülent to, was covered in a thick mist that looked as though it went on forever.
“Slow down girl, we are almost there,” Cassian whispered.
The horse left out a sigh of relief, and carried on. Coming into the mist seemed more frightening each time for the both of them. Bülent had endured many things but nothing compared to her experience with Cassian.
“Remember what we came here for. I know he is still out here looking for me,” said Cassian.
“I agree,” said Bülent, “”But what if your mother is right? What if he did, you know…”
“It crosses my mind everyday. Keep your eyes ahead.”
They rode further into the mist until they spotted the first tree of the forest. Bülent stopped after the mist was behind them and only the tiniest bit light showed through the canopy. Cassian stepped down from the horses back and grabbed onto the loss reins. He led the horse deeper into the forest, until they came to what looked like a waterfall. The area was open and small, like a nook in the middle of the forest. Cassian turned back to the horse and removed its saddle, bags, and reins. He placed them on the ledge that sat over a section of the pool by the waterfall. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a string with a tiny rock hanging from it.
“Are you ready?” Cassian said.
The horse nodded and he slipped the string over her huge neck. Cassian looked up at the canopy to see the swirling, deep sky. When he looked back, what was once a horse, was now a girl no more than Cassian’s age. She stood there naked, with wide eyes.
“Oh sorry I forgot,” said Cassian as he grabbed a blanket to put around her.
“Thank, but you have to start remembering that part,” she said, “ Is Elisud here? Or gone to the Rhapsody?”
“He is here.”
Cassian handed her clothes.
“Good. This place gives me terrible thoughts when it’s just the two of us.”
“ I do believe his nephew is here too. What’s his name?”
“Oh. For a name like that you would think he would hide here. Lets get on over there.”
They picked up their belongings and walked the trail down to the edge of the pool. Bülent reached over and hit a round stone that protruded from the outside of the ledge. From the middle of the pool rose stepping stones leading to the waterfall. They carefully made their way from the other end of the pool and stopped before stepping through the fall. Cassian reached over to a wooden lever on a rock pillar. After pulling the lever, one by one the steps submerged into the water. They both leaped to a ledge right beside the waterfall and slipped into the darkness behind it. A nice wooden door set there and Bülent reached up and gave it a hard knock. The door burst open.
“You are finally here!” said a man.
“Elisud!” Cassian said
“My, my, do come in.” Elisud said.
The entry-way to the peculiar cottage was simple, but decorated with elaborate paintings and vases. As they walked into the rest of the house the air was tight, but was filled with the scent of sugars. A grand table with 6 chairs sat in the center of the cooking area, and surrounding it were cabinets and storage places. In the living area was a massive fireplace with several chairs and a sofa. The walls of the hallway were garnished with more paintings and led to 3 bedrooms, a closet, a door that led to indoor stables, which had an exit to the back of the waterfall, and an extra room Elisud used for his work and maps.
“How was your trip? Any trouble?” Elisud said as he took the saddle from Cassian.
“The trip was fine, but just as last time, it gets even more unusual in that mist,” Cassian said.
“ On my way back from the Realm, I noticed that the mist seemed to have grown closer to the walls.”
“That’s odd,” Bülent said.
“Ah yes, Dai has been hoping he would see you. You know where he is, go on.”
Bülent sat down the remaining sack in her hand and started down the hallway. She turned at the second door and lightly knocked. When the door opened, there stood a tall, young man, with dirty blond hair. He smiled.
“Finally, you both are here again! It has been forever,” Dai said as he wrapped his arms around Bülent, “How was your trip?”
“It was fine,” said Bülent, “ Same as it always is.”
"I hate to break off the reunion, but I do believe it is time to start our journey?" interrupted Cassian, “You’re coming, right Dai?”
“Don’t I always?”
They all walked to the indoor stable where five horses stayed and saddled them for travel. Elisub pulled yet another lever and it flipped a section of the rock wall around to reveal swords, bows, arrows, knives, daggers, satchels, uniforms, and shields. They grabbed what they needed, got into their uniforms, and climbed aboard the horse.
“I suppose you’re staying?” Cassian said to Elisub.
“I’m too old for these things. I pray the Gods watch over you in your journey. When shall you all return?”
“Tonight. No later than midnight. If we do not return, please wait until morning to search. You know,” Bülent said.
“On your way now!” Elisub screeched.
The door to the forest from the stable opened and out went 3 horses. After the door shut behind them, they walked in front and beside each other in silence for a while until Dai hesitantly said:
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Cassian responded.
“In which direction?”
“ I’m not sure. Listen.”
They all stopped and for what were supposedly howls. Cassian gazed into the forest. He turned his head to look around and heard something. Not a howl. Gallops. Horses. From behind them.
“Dai, is that your horse?” Cassian said.
“No,” Dai responded as he turned to face behind him, “GO. Now. They are coming!”
All of the horses took off, dashing through the forest. Behind them was a pack of Raiders. Abhorrent men who looted, killed, and worked for far off places. They were the one who were after Argos. For his blood.
“Is it them Cassian?” Bülent screamed over the deafening hooves racing.
Cassian looked back to try and catch a glimpse of the Raiders. He heard whistling from where the men rode.
“It’s them!” Cassian said.
“Does that mean…” Bülent asked.
“He is alive… He is close.”
Cassian closed his eyes. He grasped the whistles from behind them, and focused his mind on them and the distinctive sound they chimed.
The horse got faster and the forest became a blur to the naked eye. Dai and Bülent had tears rolling down their face from the wind blowing directly onto them. The mist got heavier as they rode deeper into the forest. The passing blur caught something. It was running just as fast. Howls broke out from on one side of the horses. Cassian still heard the bells, but there was something else ringing. Like metal clashes. He led his horse off to the left and the rest, including the Raiders, followed.
They went on and on for what seemed like hours. Again, two sounds. Cassian finally opened his eyes. He looked to Bülent who was riding beside him, but overlooked her face. His eyes grew. There in the blur, ran a long legged wolf, with a long white strip of fur going down his back. That’s what made him different.
Bülent followed Cassian's eyes over to where he looked in shock, and Dai, who rode behind them, followed.
“Is that him?” Dai called out.
“Yes!” Cassian responded, “ This way!”
They jerked their horses in the direction they were guided and followed. In front, led Argos.
The Raiders seemed to disappear, but from time to time you could hear one call out and say the same thing over and over again. Argos led them back to where they started. Back into the stables, not three ran, but four. Two longed for lovers, and two long lost best friends.