Scarlette meandered through the deep wood, stopping here and there to collect flowers, which she placed carefully in her basket. Stepping into the clearing, she paused to smell the chamomile before harvesting.
A branch cracked in the shadows at the edge of the clearing, but Scarlette appeared oblivious of the danger. It is only when the huge wolf stepped forward that she gasped and stifled a scream.
The beast stalked nearer, showing an array of razor sharp teeth. There was no fear in the wolf’s eyes. This was the killer that has been plaguing the surrounding hamlets all summer.
“My! What big teeth you have,” exclaimed Scarlette, backing away from the wolf..
Scarlette scanning the trees for signs of the rest of the beast’s pack, but the huge male appeared to be a loner.
Their eyes lock.
The beast paused, savouring the victory. He had been following the young woman all morning, waiting for the right time to strike.
This was a wily old wolf. He wanted to make sure that the maiden wasn’t a lure, sent to trap him.
They were now deep in the woods, and there was no scent of huntmen anywhere around. There was no one nearby to rescue the maiden. It was time to strike.
The muscles on his heavy flanks tensed as he prepared to leap at the woman’s throat. Drool dribbled from his mouth in anticipation of her warm sweet blood. With a final twitch of his tail, he leapt forward.
The clearing erupted with the sound of thunder. Scarlette’s basket of flowers exploded, sending petals in every directions. As the smoke cleared, the wolf crashed to the ground at Scarlette’s feet, his chest shredded and bleeding from the hidden blunderbuss.
Scarlette took a deep breath, pausing to wipe a droplet of blood from her cheek, before stooping to inspect the beast.
The wolf was still alive, if barely. He struggled to rise, but he had already lost too much blood. All he could do was lie there and whimper.
He watched in terror as the maiden rummaged around in her basket. Sunlight glinted off metal as she lifted out a heavy cleaver. His eyes could not look away as she raised it high and swung it with all of her might.
The wolf saw no more.
Discarding the shredded flowers, Scarlette placed the wolf’s head in her basket and turned to leave.
A bouquet of flowers would have made her two coppers, but the bounty on a wolf’s head was a full guinea. Her mother would turn in her grave, if she knew how her daughter was making a living, but she had always been a daddy’s girl, and her father had been of the best hunters in the kingdom.