Impatience clouded her thoughts as she walked in, her crimson apprentice robe opening up behind her in the breeze created by her quick steps. The morning she had squandered playing outside had gone all too quickly and now she didn't quite have enough time to finish practicing her spells before meeting with her Master. It grated on her that she had been made to call her Master, 'Mother'. Her real mother was a loving memory far in the past now. It wasn't like she held any affection for this 'Mother' either. No, it was more like respect. Respect bordering on fear, because Mother was a most powerful dark Mage indeed.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice calling her, "Red? Little Red Riding Hood, is that you?"
This actually angered her. Her real name, the name she had chosen for herself when she had entered the priesthood was Velreenia Lagreth. Her Mother though had from the start refused to have anything to do with that. Her Mother was old school all the way.
She had taken one look at her and said, "I shall call you Little Red Riding Hood."
"But Mother, my name is Velreenia Lagreth," she had said stamping her foot down. She was after all just a little girl.
"That may be, but to me you will be Little Red Riding Hood." She had protested and for her troubles had been gifted with a silence spell that lasted for the next four years. The lesson had been the beginning of many that had taught her the proper relationship between her Mother and herself.
"Yes Mother, it is I," she said with absolute respect and reverence. Her respect for her Mother was pure and true, even though she had one day vowed to kill the bitch.
"Come here darling," she said.
Velreenia walked into the room her mother was in. She saw her seated at her desk which had a wide variety of reagents and scrolls spread out over it. The air was thick with magic and it took all of her concentration to be able to approach her Mother without screaming in terror. The magic Mother was working today was powerful indeed. She slowed to a measured pace, as she struggled to master her fear and came to a kneeling posture in front of her Mother. Her crimson robe spread out around her.
She knelt in silence and was starting to tremble in pain in spite of herself. The magic of her Mother was almost more than she could bear. She waited for her Mother to touch her forehead and give her permission to rise. The silence lingered though and she knew she was being tested. She calmed herself and let the magic flow through her. As she worked with it, the pain began to turn into exquisite pleasure and she felt her self beginning to breathe deeply. She was quickly in danger of losing control. Again she calmed herself and at last started to rise above the magic of her Mother.
"Little Red, I am most impressed with your progress," Mother said as she touched her forehead lifting her up. Very soon I will recommend you for the trials. You will one day be a most powerful priestess to the great Thule."
Velreenia smiled sweetly at the compliment from her Mother while envisioning the painful lingering death she would one day administer to this cruel heartless woman. "Your praise is high honor indeed Mother," she replied sweetly. "I will strive to stay worthy of your confidence in me."
"And you shall daughter. Now, I have a mission for you to undertake. The basket by the door is filled with some most rare reagents I have gathered for our Grandmother."
Velreenia merely nodded at this. Grand Mother was the High Priestess of Thule, the one to which they all owed allegiance and devotion. She had met her on many occasions. It was a treat for her to visit Grandmother because while Mother was a disciplined taskmaster, her Grandmother treated her with a much gentler hand. She supposed that was the privilege of a Grandmother, as they didn't have to live with the grooming of a Mage and all the discipline that entailed. Still, this was a treat, and one that she very much appreciated. She was also aware that Grand Mothers powers far eclipsed her Mothers, and therefore she had only the greatest respect for her.
"I want you to take them to her right away."
A smile crossed Little Red's face as she failed to contain her pleasure.
"Do not dawdle dear daughter. This mission is most important. Grandmother will be expecting them." A dark shapeless shadow had begun to gather in the corner. It was one Velreenia recognized all too well. It was her bane, a hint of the punishment she would be forced to endure should she fail to perform mothers commands with exactness. It was one she was all too familiar with, and if there were any hesitancy about being diligent in her mission, this banished any such thoughts.
"I will do as you say Mother," Little Red said. "And thank you." She turned and walked out of the room at a quickening pace grabbing the basket as she went. The other girls saw her leave with basket in hand, clearly jealous that Red had been chosen for the mission and not they. Minor spells of destruction bounced off of Red from the other girls. Red just smiled to herself as the intent of her sisters to harm her only served to heighten her pleasure.
He walked down these streets and into the forest with no one really noticing him. This was remarkable in itself since he was such a striking person, but he had long ago mastered the skill of moving through towns without attracting attention. If anyone had noticed though, they would have seen a most intriguing person. He was tall with dark hair that fell around his shoulders. His black robe had purple colored runes at the sleeves that almost seemed alive and somehow reluctant to stay attached. Physically he wasn't imposing and so it was obvious he was not a warrior of any sort, yet he moved with a measured grace that marked him as one who had the kind of complete control over himself that only came with many years of practice. There was a fluidity and smoothness in his steps that made it seem like he floated over the cobblestone rather than walked on them. He moved much more like a predator of the forest on the hunt. Indeed this was one of several reasons he had been given the nickname, "The Wolf."
Little Red Riding Hood walked through the forest taking in the smells and sounds. She was not a Wood Elf and therefore couldn't actually sing to the trees and have them answer her, but she could feel the magic they contained and it thrilled her to be able to walk in the midst of them. She amused herself by imagining enlisting them in her mission to destroy her Mother once and for all.
It was at this point that she noticed a man. She could tell from his robes that he was High Sorcerer of Tunare. This should have alarmed her as she was a Dark Mage of Thul but even though she was just beginning to come into her own power Velreenia was still just a girl and quite naive. She therefore walked up and began to talk to him.
"Oh, hello," she said.
The Wolf saw the girl approach. He saw she was a young girl, a dark mage in training. Her death, if done properly, could give him exquisite pleasure. This really was too much to pass up. "Hello Little Red Riding Hood. What are you doing here?"
"Oh," Little Red said totally without guile, "I'm on my way to deliver this basket to my Grand Mother, the High Priestess of Thul."
Could it get any better than this, Wolf thought to himself? He had a score to settle with that one. Years of practice had just been completed to the end of being able to deal with the High Priestess. If he could get the girl and the High Priestess in the same day, he might gain enough experience to advance to the next level of his Priesthood himself. In that moment he decided on a plan. "Little Red Riding Hood, look at these mushrooms over here. They are most rare. I'm sure they are of value to your Grand Mother as reagents in her spells. Why don't you gather them and bring them to her, she surely would be quite pleased."
Velreenia nodded eagerly in agreement. The Sorcerer was absolutely correct and she now knew him to be a true friend and didn't believe any of the stories her Mother had told her. "That's a wonderful idea," she replied. "Thank you." All thoughts of the punishment that awaited her for dawdling on this mission had fled.
Wolf smiled sweetly, nodded and continued down the path to where he knew the High Priestess made her abode.
It was a cool autumn morning. The trees were only a week past their peak color. He walked through the woods and up into the hills. Soon, the trees began to disappear as he rose higher and higher. At last, he stood at the top of the final hill. The drop off in front of him was almost two hundred feet to a small shallow creek below. The other side rose up every bit as steeply and much higher to the beginning of a chain of mountains called the Fury Mountains. The one he stood in front of was called Grand Mother's Peak and it was named after the High Priestess herself who had taken up residence there many many years ago. He surveyed the face of the rock and almost directly across from him, perhaps a hundred yards away, he saw the opening. It was rather large, perhaps some twenty yards across and a bit higher. It was completely inaccessible as it was on the face of a sheer cliff.
He stood only a moment and traced the pattern of "dead man floating" and continued walking. He strode directly towards the opening, walking just as surely as he were on firm ground even though he was walking quite literally on air. He got to the edge of the opening and stood on the ledge.
He was centered and he was filled with power, almost to overflowing. He felt ready. He listened, felt, and began to sense Grand Mother. She was awake and she was waiting for him. He sensed too the darkness and despair that emanated from her though it could not touch him, as his shields were too strong. He began to move down into her cave. When he approached a turn ahead and knew this was it. Resolution and determination filled him as he stopped for only a moment and softly spoke one last prayer to his God, Tunare. "Most holy Tunare be with your servant in this hour," he said.
He instantly felt her voice in his mind, "Wolf." It was spoken softly, quietly with a note of love and acceptance. He nodded his head smiling, now filled with the confidence of her blessing and touched the symbols on his sleeves. They began to glow at first faintly and then brighter, and he walked around the corner into the chamber of Grand Mother.
He stood in the door way and looked out into a very large room, perhaps some thirty yards across. The runic symbols continued to grow brighter and brighter. The glare was almost blinding when the runes lifted off his robe and began to move, slowly at first and then faster in an intricate pattern around him. He himself began to glow as the symbols moved in their spherical rhythmic pattern.
At the far side of the chamber Grand Mother watched. She rose up to her full height and spread her robes wide. The Wolf watched too and noticed she was every bit as powerful as tales had told, perhaps more so. He felt the darkness emanate from her and knew it would be overpowering to those of lesser power than he. Grand Mother strode and stood in the center of the chamber and examined him. She made no move to stop his preparations but appeared to be mildly interested. After several minutes she spoke.
"Wolf," she said in a surprisingly soft and seductive voice.
He wondered how she knew his name as he finished his preparations to attack.
"Most impressive." she said, "Your power is more than I have felt in a mere human. If you leave now I will let you live."
He could almost detect a hint of sadness in her voice as if she did not enjoy the destruction that was synonymous with her name. Magic flowed through him and he knew he would be victorious. Considering her unworthy of any spoken words, his hands moved in the final patterns of "Atols Spectral Shackles" and "Flaming Sword of Xuzl" and fire rushed from the runes, throwing Grand Mother violently against the back wall and pinning her there, while it focused to a white hot point of a flaming sword that moved towards her head.
It all appeared to take her by surprise as the point of the sword drew closer and closer to her face. Wolf was completely calm as he focused all his energy into that point. Massive energy exploded from the point bathing Grand Mother in flame. The point came within a few inches of her face and stopped. Grand Mother began to smile.
They both felt it stop and Wolf reached deeper within for strength. More energy flowed into him and he focused it on the sword of Xuzl. Slowly it touched Grand Mother's nose and entered her head. She began to scream in uncontrolled anger and rage. Clearly she had not expected him to be so powerful. In the end, she simply sighed deeply, sadly Wolf thought to himself, and went limp.
"Now only the girl remains," Wolf said dispassionately. He took Grand Mothers limp body and tracing a runic symbol on her forehead watched her shrink to the size of a doll. He then took her and slid her inside his robe. She wasn't dead of course, he could deal with her later.
He heard footsteps coming down the tunnel and smiled softly, "The little wench is right on time," he said with a laugh With that he touched three of the runes on his robe in quick succession and his form began to change into that of an elderly woman. It wasn't an exact match to the High Priestess but then it didn't have to be. It just had to hold long enough for the girl to get close.
She burst into the room unannounced.
"Oh hello Grand Mother," Little Red Riding Hood said.
"Hello you little," Wolf stopped himself as he had about to call her a wench. That would never do, he must be the Grand Mother for a few moments, as distasteful as this was, "Hello Little Red Riding Hood," he said as sweetly as he could.
"I brought this basket for you. Mother told me you would be expecting it." At this Little Red couldn't help but notice something was odd. She couldn't quite put her finger on it but yes, something was definitely out of place. Great magic was in the air, but then that was to be expected with Grand Mother. She sensed a battle had just taken place here though, there was too much magic, even for one such as Grand Mother, that and foreign magic, a type she had no familiarity with. She therefore spoke the first thing that came to her mind letting her instincts take the lead, "Grandmother, what big eyes you have."
Wolf knew, his form had not settled in completely and the Little Red Wench sensed something was wrong. He just needed her to come a bit closer though. The energy he needed to do magic had been almost completely depleted in the battle with Grand Mother. What he had in mind for the girl was to slip his enchanted Blade of Reckoning between her ribs. "All the better to see you with my dear, now why don't you bring that basket over to Grand Mother and let's have a look at what's inside."
Sensing that things definitely were not right Red nevertheless not being one to disobey Grand Mother, fearing the repercussions if she did so, began to walk towards the bed. Too late she sensed the trap, and there wasn't even time to scream.
Wolf smiled widely as his hand shot out from his robes and the enchanted blade found its mark between the girls ribs, just under her heart. He held the blade firmly while the life force of the girl flowed freely from the girl and into him. Nothing was quite as sweet as the life of little girl was it, he thought to himself.
This had been a good day indeed he reflected as he took his true form. He watched the blood pool around the lifeless body of the girl that he had let fall to the floor and laughed richly and deeply.
Moral: Little girls should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for The Wolf.