The Wolf and Red

Characters R'sner, N'sir
Synopsis A re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, as told by R'sner.
Out-of-Character Date March 7, 2019

Igen Weyr - Star Stones
A flat notch on the eastern rim of the bowl, this area is only large enough for two dragons to comfortably rest. Its primary purpose is long past, although the ancient star stones remain. Cut from the native sandstone and inset with metal so many ages ago to frame the pulsing red star above on the eve of a pass. The stone is ever so slowly eroding from the elements, but is nowhere near collapse. Never again shall the finger and eye rocks to align with that dreaded celestial body. Now this area serves mainly as the lonely watchdragons perch. The view from is spectacular. The bowl spreads out below to one side, and beyond that are seen the low weathered mountains and the shimmering yellow deserts. A small shed topped with a solar panel located against the rising rim of the bowl provides an air conditioned area for a rider to rest out of the heat of the day. A door in the stone wall near the shed leads to a winding spiral staircase that links many lengths below to the series of inner caverns. The view may be epic, but transport by rider is much more convenient than those winding endless stairs.

The story of little red riding hood as told by R'sner (Wolf and Red)

Once upon a time there was a wolf. The wolf lived in a dark, desolate, dangerous woods. It had not always been dark, and desolate, and dangerous. Once, there was light, and laughter, and warmth. But now it was cold and empty, and the wolf often wondered why he stayed in the wood at all. Dying would be better, but it was too much trouble. He hadn't the energy to try. He was a shadow among shadows, as dark as the woods around him, but he didn't care. He did what was required to survive. He hunted when he was hungry. He slept when he was tired. He breathed the air, and he roamed the woods, but there was no joy in any of it. He existed, but he did not live.

Then one day, a stranger appeared at the edge of the woods. He wore a bright red hood, and he had no fear of the dark and desolate forest. The wolf was angry and afraid, and went to confront the stranger, intent upon chasing him out.

"The woods are a dark and desolate place. They are not safe. Go away."

But Red said he was not afraid. He was curious about the woods. He wanted to know what was there. This frightened the wolf, and he tried again. Barring his teeth and snarling, trying to be as terrifying as he could, he again warned the stranger.

"These woods are a dark and dangerous place. They are not what they once were. Go another way."

But Red just smiled. He was not afraid of the wolf, and he was not afraid of the woods. He wanted to see what was on the other side, and the wolf could tell that he would not be dissuaded.

But the wolf was afraid. He wondered if he shouldn't try again to chase the stranger away. Because Red intrigued him, and made him feel something he had not felt in a very long time, and he wasn't sure he wanted to feel it. He wanted to be alone, to go back to being a shadow among shadows, until death claimed him.

'Well,' thought the wolf. 'If he is going into the woods, I might as well go with him. That way, he will see that I am telling the truth — that this is a dark and dangerous place. Not the sort of place for a bright-eyed stranger to be traveling. It is lonely, and empty, and he will want to leave. The sooner he gets through, the better.'

And so the wolf and Red set off through the woods together. The wolf was wary, watching the stranger with sharp eyes and sharp ears, waiting for the moment when he would realize that the wolf was right about the woods. But Red did not seem scared, even as they went deeper and deeper into the dark. He saw the shadows, but he did not shy away. He observed the silence, but he was not afraid. He listened to the wolf, who told him again and again that he should go back, but he did not listen.

And as they went, the wolf found himself scared for a different reason. He found that he liked Red's company, but he knew it was wrong. He didn't want Red to leave, but he knew he shouldn't stay. The wolf knew that the woods were no place for him, even if Red did not seem to realize it. The woods were a dark and dangerous place, and he was afraid that Red would be hurt by them. He did not want Red to be hurt.

"You should go back," he tried to say. "This is no place for one such as you."

But Red would not listen, and the wolf did not have the strength to leave him. And as they went deeper and deeper, the wolf realized that it was too late. He did not want Red to go, even if he knew he should go. The woods were not safe, but now he was afraid that Red would see what a terrible, lonely place it was, and that he would want to leave. And the wolf did not want Red to leave.

Deeper into the dark they went, and still Red did not leave. He told the wolf to stop telling him to leave, to stop warning him of the dangers. He liked the woods, just they way they were. He didn't care that they were dark, and lonely, and dangerous.

"Besides," said Red. "It is not so dark — can't we see each other? And it is not so lonely, either. Aren't I walking beside you? Maybe your woods are changing."

And the wolf realized he was right. The woods were changing. There was light, where once there had been only shadow. There was sound, if just the two of them talking. And he was not alone, for Red was walking with him. But still, the wolf was afraid. He had no illusions about this place. While Red brought light, and sound, and companionship, the woods were still not what they once were.

"There are other woods," he argued. "Brighter, safer, better woods. Places worthy of your traveling."

"I don't want any other woods. I want this one. I like this one."

They argued, and the wolf snarled and snapped and bared his fangs. But it was half-hearted at best, because he did not really want Red to leave. Even though he knew he should.

And when they reached the deepest, darkest, most desolate place in the woods, the wolf knew this was the end. How could anyone look at such a thing, and not realize that there were other places much better to be? How could anyone chose this lonely, dangerous place over another?

Except that he did not think it was as lonely, or as dangerous, as it once was. And the wolf realized that it was because of Red that these things had occurred, and he was suddenly desparate to keep him, terrified that Red would go, and he would be cast back into darkness.

"I do not want you to leave," he confessed, scared.

"I do not want to leave," answered Red, who was not afraid at all. "And I won't"

"But why? There are much better places to be. There are much better companions to take, than a shadowy wood, and a lonely wolf."

But Red just smiled.

"Your woods are not shadowy. And you are not a lonely wolf," he said.

And the wolf realized he was right. It was no longer lonely. And it was no longer dangerous. With Red beside him, he realized that the woods he thought he knew had changed. There was light where once there was shadow. There was laughter when once there was silence. There was warmth, where once there was cold.

And he was not a wolf at all, but a man. And with a sudden certainty, he took Red in his arms and he kissed him. He kissed his brow, and he kissed his eyes, and he kissed his lips. He held him close and knew that he would never let him go. Because he loved him, and he knew it was right.

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