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(Prev: Pick up)

Tasmin’s pace quickened as she left the village behind her, a spring returning to her step. She took a deep breath of clean air as the sounds and smells of the village faded behind her. Shifting her bag from one shoulder to the other, she closed the gap between her and the tree line in no time at all.

As the village disappeared from sight, she stepped off the path and made her way through the trees. Tasmin pulled her hood down and felt Henry leap from her shoulder. Seconds later, she felt a cold wet nose touch her hand. Looking down, she saw Misty appear from the undergrowth. She scratched her ear briefly as they forged deeper into the forest.

Finally, they entered a clearing. Misty broke away to drink from the stream as an unsaddled Palomino approached and nickered softly. “Hello, Spirit. Did you miss me?” She rubbed his nose and pulled the apple from her bag. He took it from the palm of her hand and munched it as he turned away from her and put his head down to a tuft of grass.

Tasmin set her bags down and took off her cloak and shoes before going to wash off the smell of the village. Sitting with her feet in the water, Misty joined her and thrust a nose under her arm. Laughing, Tasmin scratched her back and smiled as the wolf’s tail thumped appreciatively. When she stopped, Misty wandered over to annoy Spirit, who flicked his tail and stamped a foot as he continued to eat grass. Had it been anyone else, he would have bitten them by now.

Tasmin wrapped her arms around her knees and watched the animals play. They were all a bunch of misfits, she felt. She had left home at a young age. She had never felt like she belonged and took the first opportunity to hit the road. Her only companion had been Spirit, who had a fiery temper and bordered on uncontrollable. Others in her village had whispered about evil doings, which further estranged her.

She wondered what omens had been shining upon her, the day that Tasmin found the tiny wolf cub close to death as she and Spirit cut through the forest one day. She had clearly been abandoned as a runt of the litter, small and undersized. Misty was now almost three and still small for her age. What she lacked in size, she more than made up for in agility and courage, frequently aiding Tasmin in their adventures.

Henry was her newest pet. She watched him throwing twigs and leaves down at the others and smiled. She had awoken at an inn, a few months ago, to find him sitting on a bedside table, clutching a silver ring. She had no idea where he or the ring came from, but he refused to leave. Already, he had proven useful in his ability to pick pockets and do tricks for a few extra coins.

Tasmin stood up and began gathering branches. It would be dark soon and she needed to prepare dinner.