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Bracing her courage with a prayer, Emma made certain Mary had her weapon. After readying her shotgun, Emma cautiously crawled from their shelter, with Mary following close behind.

As Mary got to her feet, a wolf made its presence known by showing itself against the snow. It was soon joined by others, until four or five wolves were staring at Emma and Mary.

Following Emma's example, Mary stood absolutely still.

"Have you ever eaten a wolf before?" asked Emma.

Mary grinned hungrily.

Slowly, Emma raised her shotgun.

Skittish of Emma's movement, the wolves began to pace the perimeter of the camp, as if searching for vulnerability.

"Do you have a good grip on your pistol?"

"Yes, Ma."

"I want you to get as close as you can to the lodge's entrance. When I fire my shotgun, I don't know if the rest will attack; if they do, try to hit one of them before you duck inside. If I can't make it into the shelter, stay there until Josiah arrives. No matter what, I want you to stay inside. Is that understood, Mary?"

The child whimpered in protest, but Emma remained adamant. If anything happened to her, she wanted Mary to live.

"I understand," Mary said finally.

"Start edging your way back to the entrance."

With small, measured steps, Mary left Emma's side until a low call signaled Mary was in place.

By now, the wolves were becoming brazen, lunging into the camp, then quickly retreating to see if they would be pursued for their audacity. They were thin beasts, and their desperation matched their obvious hunger.

Emma leveled her aim at the nearest wolf. The wolf didn't move, but stared at Emma until she fired a single barrel from her shotgun. With a high-pitched "Yip!" the animal fell to the snow.

Instead of attacking, the other wolves turned tail and fled.

"They are gone!" Mary said happily.

"Thank God," said Emma, breathing a deep sigh of relief.

Before Emma knew what Mary was doing, the child had pulled out a knife and approached the dead wolf. Squatting, Mary wobbled on the balls of her feet before kneeling in the snow to work.

Hurrying to Mary, Emma admired the girl's calm deliberation as the child explained what needed to be done.
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