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(Prev: The Travelers)

Tasmin kicked dirt over the embers and picked up her bag. She reached inside for the small cylinder as she approached Spirit. Lifting a flap on his saddle, she slipped it into a secret compartment and tightened the girth. Tasmin patted his shoulder and took the reins.

She led him across the stream and through the trees. She felt Henry drop briefly to her shoulder before he leaped on to Spirit’s neck and climbed to to a vantage point just behind his ears. Tasmin still marveled at how the stallion allowed the little monkey to get away with it.

Spring was all around. Trees and bushes were covered in bright green buds. Birds chirped and occasionally, Tasmin spotted a squirrel or other small animals scurrying. She grabbed a blade of grass as she walked. She turned and tickled Spirit’s nostrils. He snorted and shook his head, almost dislodging Henry. Tasmin laughed and Henry scolded the horse as he took a more firm grip on his mane.

There was a low growl came from the bushes just ahead. Tasmin slowed to a halt and scanned the area. Misty was nowhere to be seen. She did not think this was Misty’s doing, though, as the growl sounded louder and closer.

Tasmin looked around and assessed the situation quickly. The sound came from a thick bush, close to the base of a large oak tree. It sounded like a wolf and Tasmin was willing to bet that it was a female protecting her young. “Easy, girl,” she murmured softly as she urged Spirit to move to his right. “I am not going to hurt you.” She kept watch on the bushes as she carefully moved away.

She stopped as the wolf approached, stepping clear of the bush. It seemed to be a young animal, not much bigger than Misty. It was a darker grey with flecks of black and lighter grey mixed in. She had no way of telling if it was male or female. They were now in a stand-off. To try leave might give the wolf reason to believe they were prey and attack. She could not approach the animal either, since it might feel threatened. If indeed it was a mother looking after her cubs, it might be another reason to attack.

The strange wolf snarled again and she tensed. Then Misty whined at her feet. She watched as her own dog dropped to her stomach and crawled forward a little, tail wagging cautiously. For the longest time, they stared at each other. Tasmin’s breath caught in her throat as it suddenly came nearer. She kept still as it sniffed Misty and then her outstretched hand.

Just as quickly as it appeared, the wolf was gone again. Tasmin moved a good distance away before giving in to the need to sit down. She breathed a deep sigh of relief and hugged Misty. That had been a little too close for comfort!