The wolves were going to catch him, and I couldn't do anything to stop them.
Todd ran as fast as his fox legs would let him, dodging the wolves on his tail through the forest, but he just wasn't fast enough, and even though my guardian abilities made me faster than a normal human, I couldn't get close enough to do the wolves any damage either. I threw spell after spell at the wolves, but it made no difference. They were ignoring the threat of my spells and snapping at Todd's heels.
I could not cut the distance that separated me from Todd and the wolves. I was also running too fast to concentrate on any wide-range spells that would end the wolves' hunt. I'd have to stop in order to do that kind of spell work, and by then, they'd have caught Todd. If I could cut the distance, I could stop and put up a force field to protect Todd.
Suddenly, one of the wolves let out a short howl and leaped into the air towards Todd. I stopped short and tried to blast the wolf with a bolt of magic, but I missed and the wolf landed on the fox and tore him to pieces before my eyes. I stumbled to the ground and cried before my dream world went black.
I rose and stumbled to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. It had been five years since Todd had died, five years since I ended my career as a guardian, but I still had nightmares. I took my cup of coffee and stood on the front porch overlooking the woods.
A branch cracked not fifteen feet away at the edge of the woods. I lined up my eyesight where the creature making the noise would appear and got ready to blast them with the first spell that came to mind. Todd was dead, but a shapeshifter's death does not end the guardian's powers.
All of a sudden, a white wolf with yellow eyes appeared from between the trees and looked at me.
"Dammit, Simon! How many times have I got to tell you to quit sneaking up on me?" I relaxed and looked at the thing he was carrying in his muzzle. "What do you have there?"
Simon grinned and shifted to his human form. "My sweet, Alexandria, you know you wouldn't harm me," he said in his low, husky voice. I hated Simon for that and showed him just how much I wouldn't harm him. I shot a small, sharp bolt of lightning at his backside.
"Ow!" he snarled.
"I wouldn't harm you, huh?" I hate wolf shapeshifters because they killed Todd, but I can't hate Simon. He was Todd's older brother and had nothing to do with Todd's death. It wasn't his fault the wolves had gone after Todd. There had always been a feud between the wolves and the foxes.
"What do you want, Simon?"
He held up the sleeping bundle in his hands. It looked like a fox to me, a fox kit.
"Is this supposed to be some kind of joke?" I wasn't in the mood for jokes at the moment if it was.
He shook his head. "This is your new shapeshifter charge. His name's Alex, Alexandria."
"Simon, I haven't heard anything from the other guardians since Todd's death, and I don't plan on it. There's no way, the council would let me take on another charge when Todd died under my care."
"Todd's death was an accident, Alexandria! The result of miscommunication among different species of shapeshifters."
"That's bullshit, Simon, and you know it!" I snarled.
He sighed. "Alexandria, Alex is one of the last surviving fox-shifters. The truth is, we have no guardians to spare that know how to care for a fox-shifter. You do. The council wants you to be made his guardian."
I didn't know whether to laugh or spit in his face.
"Uh, Simon. The council must realize that my last fox-shifter charge died under my care, does it not?"
"An accident, Alexandria, no more." He seemed angry with me, which he could very well be. He hadn't forgotten his brother's death, just as I hadn't. "Listen, you are the best qualified to take on a fox-shifter because you have in the past. If it's any consolation, everyone on the council expects you to fail a second time, but you are their last hope." Damn him! He knew that because everyone expected me to fail, I'd do everything in my power to prove them wrong. He knew me too well after seeing me with his brother.
"All right, all right!" I snapped and reached out to take the fox kit from him. "How old is he?"
"He's a boy, no more than fifteen."
"He's a little young for a shifter."
"He's Todd's son," Simon told me, and then trotted away toward the woods again. "Think of him as a way to redeem yourself," he said with a laugh as he shifted into his wolf form and disappeared among the trees.
I looked at the fox kit, sleeping peacefully in a bundle of swaddling.
"Well, Alex," I said and turned back towards my house. "Let's get you settled in."