“And how brave was Gels?” Judd sighed.
“Wow, she was something else.”
“Do you remember the day she saved Brucie?” Judd asked, although I wasn’t sure he actually posed a question. His warm eyes roamed the sky, and he took a deep breath. A smile engulfed his face; his mind obviously caught up in the unforgettable memory.
I answered anyway. “Of course. The day she became a legend.”
It was shortly after Ling, Brucie’s sister, died. Grieving for her, he sought solace in Gellica’s company. One morning, when Brucie accompanied her and Nadalie to forage for nuts and berries, a ragged, male Wolf caught their scent. Aged and evidently expelled from its pack to fend for itself, it had wandered into the jungle in search of easy prey. Ravenous, mangy and demented, the Wolf attacked within seconds of tracking them down.
Gellica and Nadalie clambered clear of the danger by scaling the nearest tree. Their flight attracted the beast’s attention, and he tried to pursue them, snapping at their heels with his massive jaws and long canines. They both scrambled to safety in the tree’s high boughs, even though Gellica was confronted with the tormenting recollection of her parents’ gory death.
Only when the frustrated Wolf stopped its vain attempt to hook them from the tree did Gellica realise that Brucie was still frozen to his spot on the ground. Paralysed with fear, he had wet himself. And when the old, starved Wolf turned his attention to Brucie, Gellica somehow found the fortitude to overcome her own harrowing terror.
She had micro seconds to act. And did.
Before the Wolf pounced on Brucie and tore him to shreds, Gellica drew out her twenty-centimetre knife from its sheath on her hip and dropped onto the neck of the grisly beast with her full weight behind the blade. Piercing the creature’s brain, she killed it instantly, suffering a sprained wrist in the process. While there was a huge slice of fortune involved, it was the most courageous thing we had ever heard of, trumping even the bravery of my father and Judd’s old man.
While Nadalie eagerly told the clan of her heroics, Gellica didn’t want anyone else to know. Despite his preference for not sharing testimonies publicly beyond our clan, Victor thought this was an exception worth making. Still, Gellica refused. She said she didn’t want any attention, and confided in Nadalie, Judd and me—after we would not let the issue go—that she was most concerned for Brucie. That he’d come out looking weak if people hailed her actions. Besides the selfless act itself, her concern for Brucie’s well-being defined the person Gellica was.
Judd sighed wistfully, bringing me back to the here and now. “She is something else, isn’t she?”
I couldn’t help my eyes return to where she was, trapped between Ruzzell and Shawz, and I knew Judd was gazing at her, too.
Then he said the worst thing I heard all day.
Words that drove a stake straight through my heart.
Enough to deflate the last bit of good feeling I had left.
“Rist…” he said, his voice low and loaded with emotion.
Judd stroked the end of his nose and puffed his cheeks. “I love her, Rist. I think Gels is the one.”
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