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Cricket Lone Wolf Part 24

Marcia gets ready for summer school with her classmates. The forest attracts her again.

Final exams ended with the standings posted and as expected Marcia was the top student by a wide margin. Summer school started next week and the freshman class was abuzz with excitement. Marcia should be happy, but she sat on her bed sadly thinking about her achievement. It was nice, as number one, but at what price? Her best friend and roommate was number two tied with another girl who tried to destroy her. Was this the way her life should be, always looking behind her to see who wanted to hurt or destroy her? She felt alone, isolated from her classmates, hated not loved by her classmates. They were jealous because academic learning always came easy to her and she had special privileges from the day she arrived.

Now summer school was upon them, the start of the practical side of what they learned academically the year before. She knew that this was a special trial for her because bomb-making and assassination were not things she liked doing. She tolerated the subjects because the school required them to graduate, but performing them was extremely difficult. The whole class expected her to set the mark to which everyone else had to meet. She had to find a way to excel in summer school, to stay the best by far.

She sat motionless on her bed, as she surveyed the folded clothes around her. It was only Friday and the trip to summer school would begin on Monday, but Marcia wanted to be ready early. She abhorred waiting until the last moment to do anything, which she could do ahead. At lunch on Friday, the school passed out duffel bags for packing the clothes worn at summer school. Marcia spent time folding and rolling all her clothes tightly to get them all in her duffel bag. She felt that there was a method for packing a duffle bag and she wanted to master it as she did everything else.

As Marcia sat on the bed, her mind drifted to what she needed to do before leaving school. It was weeks since she visited her wolf friend. She felt that was something she had needed to do before she left for the summer. He was out there and waited for her to walk with him in the forest. When she was with him, time seemed to stop and her love for wolves made her relax and just let go. Her thoughts drifted until the door opened and Naomi returned from Daria's room.

"How are things with Daria and Franci? Are they still plotting to take me down?"

"Yeah, but they have not plotted anything yet. It is all talking about things you did and how they find them terrible. They say they want to do something, but nothing gets done."

"That is fine. I don't want to watch my back during summer school. It will be difficult enough. I am not sure I will pass summer school. I am good at theory, but practice is another matter."

"Tomorrow, do you want to take a walk with me into the forest? I want to check on my pet wolf and examine the magic circle again. We will be away for ten weeks and I want to make sure he is safe. The magic circle held some power that I felt when we were last there."

"That sounds like a good idea. I want to visit the wolf again, he was fun to be with and very protective. Could we invite Stefan to come along with us?"

Marcia gave Naomi a questioning look, but let it drop. "Sure he can come along. I just don't want too many people around when we visit the magic circle. That I am sure is something we should keep secret from everyone. We can ask him at breakfast. Right now, I am puzzling over the best way to pack this duffel bag. It is not easy."

Naomi chuckled, "You take your clothes fold them flat. You put your shoes on the bottom, so they are flat. Take your folded clothes and roll them up. Take the rolls and put them in your duffel bag until you have everything in it. On the top, you pile your toilet articles like toothpaste and soap and shampoo. It is easy. I will help you do it on Sunday. Let's just go to bed."

"Yeah, I just have to do something with all these clothes," Marcia screamed as she swept all her clothes onto the floor. She stood next to her bed and shook with raucous laughter at the mess she made. Her action was contrary to all her behavior, but it felt good to relieve all the stress. Naomi rolled on her bed shaking with laughter at her friend's spontaneously erratic behavior.

Marcia sprawled on her bed giggling from her sudden outburst. To her, it felt good to release that burst of exuberant energy and push her clothes around. Nothing broke except for her ever-present poise and control, which disappeared for the night. She rolled on her bed and looked at Naomi on her bed laughing and kicking her feet in the air.

Marcia lay propped up on her elbows and laughingly chided Naomi, "You better not tell anyone what I just did. Wait, maybe you should. They would never believe you. So, go ahead tell them."

Marcia reached up, turned off the lights and lay on her bed fully clothed. She fell asleep quickly while Naomi slowly quieted from her fit of laughter. The moon and stars outside faded as clouds rolled across the mountains into the river valley below the castle. To Naomi, it appeared that Mother Nature put out the bright lights to enable the girls to sleep. She rolled over, slid her arm under her pillow and closed her eyes. Within a few short minutes, she joined Marcia sleeping soundly.

Morning came and Marcia woke to find that she slept in her clothes. She looked at herself and decided that it was all right to keep wearing the same clothes. She rose and shook Naomi to get up and go to breakfast. Reluctantly, Naomi blinked at Marcia and gawked because Marcia looked disheveled and so messy. They left the room and walked cheerfully into the dining hall to meet their friends. As they sat at the table, confused looks passed among their friends. After the looks had disappeared, the usual morning banter began and everyone started to talk at once.

Talk soon turned to what they would do with the rare day off the students had. Most would spend time hanging out in one of the recreation areas of the castle. Stefan announced he would spend time riding and grooming his horse. Marcia and Naomi were noticeably quiet and removed from the discussion. No one seemed to notice except Stefan because he hoped Marcia and Naomi would join him in the stables. He turned, gave Naomi a quizzical stare, she stared blankly back at him.

As breakfast ended, Marcia, Naomi and Stefan lagged behind the departing students. Stefan asked the girls, "What are your plans for today?"

Before Marcia could answer Naomi jumped in, "We plan to spend time exploring the forest behind the school, specifically the small pond and the magic circle. We would like you to join us, please."

Stefan looked at Naomi and then Marcia who nodded and he replied, "As long as you help me with my horse this morning, I will be glad to go with you into the forest. Let's get out to the stable." He headed out of the dining area and down the large stone stairs to the courtyard with the girls following slowly behind. The girls chatted the whole time they walked to the stables. Stefan tried to listen to them but found they made no sense with their chatter.

Stefan entered the stable and took his horse outside into the courtyard. As he walked the gelding through its warm-up exercise, the girls brought out the horse tack Stefan used. Naomi took the rope from Stefan to hold the horse still while he put the saddle on the horse. Marcia and Naomi dragged a bale of hay out of the stable to sit on while Stefan exercised his horse. The girls watched fascinated by the precise control Stefan had over the horse and the way the two were so in tune.

When Stefan finished, he cleaned out the horse's stall while the girls fed and watered the horse. Naomi combed out the horse's tail and Marcia brushed its coat. The horse stood quietly while the girls fussed over him and snorted a few times when Marcia tickled him. Marcia had a treat for the horse, but the horse knew by the smell where it was and nudged Marcia for it. Marcia almost fell over from the nudge and laughter at the horse's antics. When she finished brushing him, she took a few carrots from her back pocket and fed the horse.

When Stefan finished cleaning and moved the horse back into its stall, Marcia noticed it was time for lunch. She felt it was none too soon because she wanted to get into the forest. She grabbed Naomi and Stefan dragging them to lunch moving them along quickly. She ate lunch quickly and hurried along the other two. Something nagged at Marcia about the forest and she wanted to explore what she felt. It was as if something out there called to her to come join it.

As soon as they finished lunch, Marcia, Naomi and Stefan went into the chapel through the crypt and out the back entrance to the castle. As they entered the forest, the white wolf stepped out and met them on the path. As Marcia knelt down to hug and patted him, the wolf whined in greeting and licked her hands. Naomi and Stefan stood by and watched in amazement as the scene played out in front of them. Marcia stood and started to turn to her friends, but invisible hands turned her toward the magic circle. The wolf growled but followed Marcia at a safe distance.

Stefan and Naomi looked mystified at each other and followed behind the wolf, which continued growling. Marcia walked slowly guided by some unseen force. Total unaware what she did Marcia walked through thickets that tore at her clothes. Branches struck her body, but she never wavered from the path. She stepped over logs and walked through brambles, nothing got in her way. The wolf, Naomi and Stefan followed the well-worn path but kept Marcia in sight. Naomi figured out Marcia was under the control of some spell and knew it came from the magic circle.

As they walked, Naomi urged Stefan to move faster to get to the magic circle ahead of Marcia. She wanted to be there before Marcia to prevent anything bad from happening and to see if there was anyone there. When they entered the circle, Naomi and Stefan felt a slight tingle but thought nothing of it. They looked around but did not see anything strange or mysterious that wasn't there before on other visits. As Naomi looked around, she heard Marcia pushing through the brush making a lot of noises.

Marcia entered the magic circle, walked solemnly around the altar and came to a stop at the foot. Naomi watched her move and remembered the movies she saw about humans under the control of other beings. Stefan pointed at the wolf, which paced around the edge of the circle, unable to cross some invisible barrier. The wolf gave up, sat down, but his eyes never left the body of Marcia. The level of its growling noise lowered when he sat and faced Marcia.

Marcia stood at the foot of the altar swaying slowly but never uttered a sound. He lips moved and Naomi saw what seemed like a silent chant, which escaped Marcia's lips. The action went on for over five minutes with Naomi watching Marcia. Marcia's body stood straight tall and stiff as if frozen in place but able to sway. When the chant ended, Marcia's body relaxed and she looked about bewildered by how she arrived there. Naomi walked to her and Stefan walked toward the wolf, which lay on the ground.

Marcia turned to Naomi and uttered, "How did I get here? What happened? Why is the wolf outside the circle?"

Naomi looked and spoke, "I was about to ask you those same questions. Since we left the school grounds, something took over your body and brought you here. You walked straight here through bushes, brambles, thickets and a lot more. Don't you remember that?"

"No, I don't remember anything since leaving the school. I feel some enchantment spell in the circle, but it released me. Did you feel anything?"

"Stefan and I felt a slight tingle when we entered the circle and the wolf forced to stay outside. We watched as you entered, circled the altar and stood silently chanting where you are."

"I understand, but all this is a big mystery to me. Nothing like this happened earlier when we visited here. That worries me deeply, but we need to get back to the school and get ready for dinner soon. Let's get out of here and get back to the school."

Marcia took Naomi's hand and they walked over to Stefan and the wolf. As they approached, the wolf stood, sniffed Marcia, jumped up and placed his paws on her stomach. She bent and it licked her face while its tail wagged happily. Marcia patted the wolf, pushed it down and started to walk down the path. She still held Naomi's hand and Naomi grabbed and held Stefan's hand. They tramped through the forest down the path back to the school. Marcia stopped at the edge of the forest and bade goodbye to her pet, which vanished quickly.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright 2012, 2013 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Cal Erickson, aka frogprince

Posted with permission at storiesspace.com

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