Wolf Daisy sped down the pathway, paws beating the forest floor.
Her heart was pounding like a hammer in her chest, her lungs pumping like bellows, the wind rippling her fur. Suddenly she pricked up her ears. Her fur stood on end as her sensitive wolf-hearing told her that the thing that was following her had more than two feet and was moving faster than a man. She turned her head and looked over her shoulder to see a monstrous giant wolf hurtling down the path after her. Its ears were back, its teeth bared, flecks of foam flew out from its mouth and its fiery eyes were locked onto their prey.
A surge of adrenaline raced through Daisy’s body. She put on a spurt, her heart thudding like it would explode any second. Goddess protect me, Goddess protect me, Goddess protect me, she repeated over and over inside her head.
She hadn’t expected Morwain to be able to shift into an animal body. She’d learnt at the Wise Woman’s Village that shifting was impossible for the likes of him, no animal would let a black magician take on its form. But the wolves were under his magical control now. They were slaves to his will and had no power to resist him. She realized this now. Too late. She’d underestimated him and now she had no choice but to outrun him.
Her paws drummed rhythmically against the ground, her flanks heaved. All I’ve got to do is keep on running, she thought, so Jemima and Annifer can get inside the mountain and heal the dragon. Goddess help me keep on running!
All of a sudden, the path through the forest ended and she came out onto a wide road, rutted with cart tracks. She looked up and saw the roofs, turrets and battlements of the city of Loska, in the distance up ahead. The thought of her sister, Poppy, who was somewhere in the city she was running towards, gave her an extra burst of energy.
But the Wolf Morwain was faster and more powerful. She heard his menacing growl, the patter of his enormous paws behind her. Despite her efforts he was gaining on her.
Run, Daisy, run! she thought, terror crawling all over her skin.
And then she felt it.
Morwain’s malevolent aura enveloping her like a poisonous cloud, sucking all the energy out of her. Panic rose in her chest as she felt it sapping the strength from her muscles, draining her life-force. She was sinking, cold hands were pulling her downwards. Goddess help me be strong! Daisy focused on her heart-fire. She tried desperately to feel its heat, to connect with the source of her power and send its energy to the rest of her body. But where there was normally a bright blazing fire, now there was only a weak, flickering flame.
Suddenly she had a dreadful realization, I’m losing the shift! Horror-struck, she looked down and saw her legs had started to lose their fur, patches of pink skin were showing through. Her claws were receding, her paws growing fingers. No! she screamed inside, her stomach clenching. Wolf Morwain was right behind her now, his hot breath on her haunches. Goddess protect me! she pleaded but she could hold the shift no longer. All at once her body changed back to its human form and everything was in slow motion. She was falling forward, twisting in mid air to face her attacker, lifting an arm to protect her face. Eyes round with fear, mouth stretched in a silent scream, she was watching helpless as the wolf leapt into the air, terrible jaws open wide, lines of drool flying behind, sharp fangs about to close around her neck.
Then, out of nowhere, a huge hairy black paw swiped at the wolf and knocked it sideways. As she fell, Daisy saw the wolf fly off course and slam into a tree, the impact knocking the snow off its branches. The wolf let out an agonized yelp and collapsed on the ground, whimpered, staggered to its feet and raced back off in the direction they had come from.
No! Morwain mustn’t get back to Sacred Mountain!
This was Daisy’s last thought before her head hit the ground and everything went black.