ed at each other for a while and then guffawed at the same time. They were having their own unceremonious meeting when Joanne joined them. She had been dancing round the column of fire.

”What do you two think of my dancing skills? ” She said, grinning in expectation. Lores and Vicksen exchanged glances in alarm. How were they going to tell her that they weren paying attention to the rituals?

”Eh, sister Joanne. ” Lores began in a cool tone. That was his usual method of calling her whenever he wanted to be polite. ”We didn see you dancing because weve not been paying attention to the ongoing ceremony. ”

She shut her eyes underwhelmingly as a crease appeared between her eyebrows. She was about to rage so Vicksen had to clear himself out.

”W-we? What do you mean by that? ” He asked Lores in counterfeit confusion. ”I saw you dancing. You danced beautifully and more elegantly than the paid dancers in a royal banquet. ” He added with a convincing smile.

”You betrayer! ” Lores was yelling inside of him while his eyes glistened with shock.

”It doesn really matter how you dance. Its just a ritual that should be carried out. ” He opined thoughtfully with the hope that it could be more convincing than Vicksens lie. Joanne snorted with a a difficult-to-read smile.

”I know you. You
e always against me. You
e simply saying that I can dance. ” Lores kept his head quizzically. His words failed to convince her even a little. No he can lose to his betrayer. He clicked his tongue and proceeded to try again.

”Youve misunderstood me again. I… ”

”The patriarch. ” The three of them scooted to join the crowd after Vicksens announcement left him unfinished with his statement. An elderly man in a sleeved tunic that extended to his ankles showed to announce the beginning of the wrestling contest. The crowd sidelined circularly while the two contestants stepped into the open space. The viewers were cheering the name their respective favourite.

One of the contestants was a thewy man whose beard was as thick as a frosty ice on a cake, while the other was normal in stature. The three of them were on the side of the man with a normal stature because he was Zyno Keslin, the father of Joanne and head of their household.

”Zyno! Castoph! Zyno! Castoph! ” The cheerers yelled with an aura of expectancy. The contestants locked their arms together and tried to suppress each other like two bulls locking horns in a challenge.

”Dad you can do it! ” Joanne cried from the sideline. As if Zyno was motivated by these words, he gripped his rivals groin and tried to put him down.

As the two men were wrestling, howls of wolves echoed repeatedly from somewhere in the woods but not very far from the village.

”The wolves are here! Run for your lives! ” People began to announce. In no time, a pack of hungry and angry wolves stormed Vatmos. The boisterous cheers and turned into incessant screams and wails.

”The night immortal has forsaken us. ” A voice called out. Lores glanced around in amazement. People were scattering headlong. He couldn find Joanne and so he began pondering where to run to. Vicksen rushed towards the column of fire with a big stick and began to scatter it in an effort to scare away as many wolves as he could. Brave men with bows and arrows, stakes and blades joined the mission of tackling the wolves.

Lores found himself dashing toward the rear of the village. Suddenly, he tripped and fell. The rustling of leaves and distant cry of people made him realize he was already in the forest.

While in distress, he heard the growl of something behind a trunk. In the process of suppressing his laboured breath, a grey wolf materialized. It advanced toward him with a slow gait and a fearsome growl that relayed a sense of intimidation. Vertical wrinkles became visible on his forehead as he flinched with panic.

”Oh no! Its the alpha male. ” His fidgeting mind jumped into a hasty conclusion. He could feel his heart throbbing abnormally. It came to him that if he succumbed to the threat of this imperious wolf, that night might be his last day on earth. Instantly, every ounce of courage began to summon within him. He brazenly got to his feet and maintained eye contact with the wolf.

As they were combating with their eyes to see who would shrink away first, a piercing sound emitted into the air. The wolfs fiery glowy eyeballs rolled up in arcs as its savage snarl converted to a deep groan of pain. A figure with a sword half stained with blood ran to meet him.

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