CHAPTER 15- LUNE
Pools of moonlight landed on her feet.
She stood still breathing in the darkness as Torryn reached out to hold her hand. They were cold and damp. The warmth of his skin eased her pale bloodless palm, but the dark continued to terrify her.
Snow began to tremble. The blackness of the woods made her stomach twist. The bitterness of bile stung her lips as she felt her guts churn. Her legs were jelly, the sweat on her forehead were pins and needles.
“What else are you afraid of?” Torryn voice pierced the humming wind, “Thunder. Darkness. What else?”
The night breeze swooped over the trunks making a sound that Snow was certain resembled words. Thunder. She recalled the first night she met him. A warmth spread her chest as his scent enveloped her.
The sound of drums grew distant as Torryn lead her through the woods. This was the part of Burnwood that she failed to venture. The terrain began to rise as both wolves began an uphill climb. No matter how close they were to their sole source of the light, darkness still engulfed most pats of the woods.
She swallowed and forced her voice steady, “That’s about it.”
Her voice was brittle. Snow bit her lip in embarrassment. Torryn walked ahead of her holding on to her hand as he tread the steep slope.
“And the void?” Torryn chuckled.
Her eyes were scrambling in the absence of light. It was pitch black. The moonlight only made it worse as it revealed small parts of their terrain. It held no clarity and so little assurance that nothing was lurking in the darkness. It only gave Snow a haunting view of the woods and the shadows where it’s but pitch black.
Pure torture. She swallowed as she sighed. Her breath trembled against her throat.
“We’re almost there,” He assured.
“Well if you where to kill me,” the alcohol rose to her temples, “This would be the perfect spot.”
The wind blew and another mewl from the woods made Snow shiver. Torryn wasn’t bothered as he continued to chuckle.
“Why would I want to do that?” He cleared his throat as he continued, “I’d be awfully lonely without a mate.”
Snow’s cheeks burned, “Can’t you have multiple wives?”
Torryn became silent. The terrain grew steep with each step. He held her waist with one arm and began to drag her up. Snow’s feet found the trunks of the trees that grew despite the angulated soil. Her steps landed on soft thick grass. Its blades were small and forgiving. Snow’s lips twitched as the blades of green tickled her feet.
“I can have all the wives I want.” Torryn answered as he now stood beside her.
They were treading a pathway where the trees and vines neatly cleared. Torryn was behind Snow cradling her back as she pushed her forward. She tread small steps terrified with the sudden encounter with darkness.
“How many do you plan to get?” Snow asked. Her chest pounded as she feared something more than darkness this time.
“How many do you want me to get?” Torryn teased.
As if the darkness did not make her shake enough, Snow had to wrestle a riot forming in her chest. Her stomach twisted and churned. The scent of wine and roast meat rose to Snow’s nostrils as she became nauseous. But as Torryn eased his hands on her waist nudging her forward, light appeared like a ray of silver and blue from a distance.
Beyond the bushes, her eyes caught a glimpse of white flickering light. Snow suddenly believed in magic as her teeth showed beneath her grin. Her steps came after the other, now faster and eager.
Torryn brushed the bushes as the moonlight blinded her.
It wasn’t long before her vision adjusted. Then, Snow’s eyes basked in the most beautiful site she has ever scene.
The Sandstone Lake, its vastness and stillness, was nothing she has seen before.
She has read about oceans and how the waves crashed the rocks of the shore, how they’d roll, the sound they make was known to sound something close to thunder.
This was nothing like an ocean.
The body of water was vast but gentler, its surface trapped in an unworldly stillness.
Snow stepped out into the corner of the mountain where the grass rippled small patches on the rocks. The trunks retreated behind her as she stood so close to the sky. Beneath her were sparkling minute waves of the water. The air caressed her cheeks as pine and crystal spring entered her lungs. She heard the soft caressing waves. The sound kissed the drums of her ears.
And above her lay a veil of a starlit sky. She closed her eyes suppressing the tears escaping from her lids.
“One,” Torryn’s voice distracted her. She stepped back balancing herself against an uprooted pine.
“I only want one wife,” Snow saw the need in his eyes. His playful grin drew Snow’s eye to the boyish curl of his lips.
“So, please. Don’t go too far out on to the cliff.”
The sound of the whip on her skin was like lightning.
The iron stung her nose as she tasted blood. She has bit her lips too much again. The curses of the man before her did not even make her blink twice. She knew what she was in for, the very moment she went home.
Sophia had dropped her satchel before her governess as she arrived in the citadel. The woman took it her hands trembling. The bottles of liquor crashed right where Sophia expected it would be.
An all too familiar voice called for her. She walked up the stairs as her handmaids brushed her back. Its as if they knew where she’d be hit.
Lying on her belly, the cold stone eased the burning red marks. Her tunic was pulled down from her chest exposing the skin of her back. Callused marks became Sophia’s proof of how often she would receive such beating and would live to scar up the blistering wounds.
The room reeked with liquor. After carriages of rum Wolfram sent for Burnwood, she was surprised that there was still some left.
Lighting struck her skin twice.
Sophia winced as she felt the blistering mound ooze warm. She trembled against the pain. The tears she held at bay now pouring in the floor before her.
“You little whore,”
Sophia thought the words hurt more. As her vision blurred beneath her tears, she caught site of the pot of Hawthorns. The white petals bushed pink as each oval meet at the center. She winced at the sweet floral smell recalling who these flowers were for.
How Sophia wished they were for her mother.
“We were bound,” the man sobbed it made Sophia sick, “I imprinted on you.”
Lightning broke the silence just as Sophia thought it was over. Gasps filled the room as quickly the scent of Hawthorns did.
She shut her eyes and visions of her first Reaping began to surface.
She was seven and she learned how to hold a knife in her hands. The stag was well dead before her.
Then, the witch came forth from the fields, wild hawthorn blooms in her hair wearing the dress Sophia’s mother used to own.
Her eyes were spring green as she smiled. Her father stood dumbfounded in her presence. Her coming made Sophia’s father come alive. She arrived that day, as the crowd swarmed around her captivated by her beauty. They bowed to her feet, kissed the rings on her fingers, offered her gold, jewels and flowers.
That day Sophia ought to give her wolf fang to her father as an old reaping tradition. The Reaping symbolized renewal, a chance to make new what is of old.
It’s the time when sons offer their wolf fangs to their fathers in a gesture of full submission, that a wolf would hand down his life to serve another.
Wolfram only had her. She thought it would have pleased him.
No matter how it pained her to have had her teeth torn out the night before, Sophia was determined to give such offering. After her mother’s passing it was just her father and her.
She had her hand on her swollen cheek another hand holding the wolf fang.
She laid it on her father’s lap during Victor’s welcome. Sophia waited but Magnus’ eyes were only on that woman. She watched him brush the offering aside too busy and preoccupied to take notice.
Sophia’s young hands wanted to dig the knife deep down her heart. She wanted to be the stag, lifeless and cold.
The days were bearable than the nights followed.
The sound of their voices moaning and panting against the walls made Sophia sick. The seven-year-old did not eat, did not force down a single drop of water just to hear them savor each other’s bodies every bloody time the sun went down.
Sophia’s eyes glared red. The veins on her temples bulged. All her life she believed that Imprinting was an excuse for men to let whores in their chambers. She did not know that the only man she has ever loved would use the same to rid of her.
Lightning struck her again as she yelped a cry intended to relieve the pain in her heart not of her skin.
“Torryn,” she whispered as the man grabbed the red locks on her head shooting her chin up.
“You witch,” Her father spat before her, “You speak of names of men other than my own.”
“Father, It’s me So—
A slap made her jaw snap. Sophia heard the crackle of her own bones and began to cry. In the safety of her thoughts she pleaded as tears dripped down her swollen cheek.
How could the man who brought her into this life see nothing in her? How could any grief and loss be more powerful than a father’s love for his own flesh and blood?
Magnus Wolfram was going mad. Every Reaping he’d take his fill of rum and beat any woman he lays his eyes on.
And, every Reaping she’d lay down and be battered senseless, a prey, a willing sacrifice just so her father could rid of the monsters in his head.
“Your father,” he said, “Is he difficult to please?”
Snow looked at him from where she sat. A wry smile painted on her lips, “I don’t know. I hope not.”
The girl hugged her knees as she sat on the grass. The moonlight made her cheeks pale but her lips where she constantly bit was butchered red. Torryn could only look away to ease his need.
“Don’t your sisters hug you often?” He felt his back against the soft grass as his arms cradled his head. He was lying beside her letting the space between them be her comfort.
“They do actually,” her voice was soft almost distant.
“Why do I sense a wall between you and your sisters?”
“Why are you asking me these questions?” the irritation in her voice made him chuckle.
Before he could steady his breath, her hand slammed against his abdomen. As he coughed with the sudden blow, he felt electricity course through him where he touched her.
“I’m sorry,” Torryn heard her giggle anyway, “Margaux told me you liked listening so...”
“Margaux talks to you?” Her voice carried a lighter note, “What did the all-knowing one say?”
“She told me that you liked roast meat. She even told me to watch you hunt.”
Snow’s cheeks flushed.
Torryn exhaled chuckles before he spoke again, “She told me that I needed to stop envisioning you under my sheet.”
“Oh God,” She cursed, “Why do you think of such things around my sisters!”
He could not help but crack up, “If only you could have told me about their talents, woman!”
“Why did you have to think that way at that certain time while Margaux is around?!”
Snow pulled on to the sleeves of his shirt as she pleaded. The sleeves of his coat knotted on his waist allowing her hands full access to his undershirt.
“There’s no specific time, Miss Grimlake,” he chortled, “I think about it all the time.”
Torryn froze as the words flowed an unstoppable feat from his lips. He cleared his throat as he searched for Snow’s eyes from where he lay. She was staring at him an embarrassed smile on her lips. He adjusted his position against the soft grass as he lay to his side. Now the two wolves faced each other smiling until words were bearable to speak.
“You do?” She asked.
Torryn hid his boyish smile and replaced it with a hungry stare he dreamed to gaze her into. He nodded.
“Do shut up.” She burst in laughter. He saw her panting at the outburst.
“Shut up? Right as I was about to tell you a very interesting story?” He teased.
“Alright then,” she was still panting, “You can shut up later.”
“That sounds fair.”
Torryn allowed his grin to settle on his cheeks. Two gasps of air moved in and out of his chest before he began.
“This is a story about a young she-wolf who found herself naked in my chambers –
Before he could continue, Snow hit her again. He arched his back against the grass and began to chuckle. He panted on the ground allowing small heaves of wailing laughter seep through his lips. Snow glared at him as she stood up.
Torryn sat up and saw her head back into the bushes.
“It’s going to be dark,” She stopped.
Snow looked back at him her face was an expression between annoyance and pleading. Torryn just stared at her cupping his mouth to hide his smile.
“Tell the bloody story!” her nose crunched as she spoke and Torryn swore he had married a child. He squinted his eyes as he suppressed his laughter. Once the bouncing of his shoulders ceased he began.
“Do you see that tower?” He pointed straight into the neighboring mountain.
Snow squinted her eyes as she followed his hand. She nodded when she saw the small black figure from afar.
“That’s an old druid tower.” He said, “On the days of old, wolves did not live by two nations. They lived as one. It has been said that the Gods chose four women who swore a life to worship and seclusion to serve and guide the wolf race.”
“The Great Four Druids,” Snow said her eyes wide as she surveyed the tower. Torryn sat down against the grass and too watched the old dark tower.
“Tala of the South, the druid of life” He said, “had the gift of fertility. She’d touch a maiden’s womb and these women would bare her husband children the following day.”
Torryn looked at Snow and playfully raised his eyebrows at her. She covered his eyes with both of her palms letting the cold skin warm against his. Torryn held her hands as he continued.
“Emrys of the West, druid of the good” he rubbed her hands warm, “She was known to plant good thoughts in people’s heads letting conflicts resolve between two wolves, two families or even two clans. But all good and life needs balance. Thus, the remaining two druids where created to balance out what is moral and existing.”
“Sylas of the East, druid of doubt, can plant a bad thought in someone’s head. She builds through her deed one’s power of choice. This causes conflict but paradoxically is essential for goodness to foster.”
Snow looked at Torryn as he spoke of old folklore and lessons elders would only speak of. A smile broke the thin line of her lips.
“You sound like my grandmother,” Snow giggled. Torryn just shook his head as he continued.
“Finally, there’s Eve of the North, druid of death" Torryn’s placed Snow’s hand on his chest, “Of all the druids her beauty was most known. However, one touch from her would send all that had life to their death. Such ability allowed the druid to balance life and death on the tip of her fingers.”
“She’s a void?” She asked.
Torryn held her hand and kissed both palms as he ended his story.
“If I shifted in front of you, would you be frightened?” Torryn asked.
Snow shook her head and smiled. He placed her hands back down on her lap as he took a step back. He took off his undershirt and undid his trousers.
Before the garment landed on the grass,
Snow found herself in the presence of a large gray wolf staring back at her with beautiful hazel eyes.
The wolf with the site of Snow growled. Its back lay arched and stern through its body.
Although wolves can become uneasy around unfamiliar faces but Torryn’s wolf knew her well. His wolf was calm and composed. Snow watched it lick against its gray paws. She sat up as the wolf stepped closer. The wolf had his head down, his eyes a gentle stare. Snow could not help but feel its energy as she saw the red injected veins on its eyes.
The wolf was so close, Snow did not know what to do. She flinched as the animal stepped back. Its body now so close to the ground.
This would be the best place to kills me. Snow thought.
The wolf just stared at her its ears moved as he shifted his view out to the lake. Her heart beat faster, harder. And with all the remaining strength she had, Snow held out her hand.
It took a while before the wolf took notice. Snow found herself trapped in the wolf’s eyes as she held out to him. Her arm, weak after the reaping, did not even tremble. She felt a small blister forming on her palm where she held out towards Torryn.
The wolf sniffed her hand but Snow held it still. She allowed the animal to come to her. Slowly his legs paced forward until her palm rested on the soft fur on top of his nose.
“Pretty wolf,” she could not stop herself from speaking.
The wolf savored her touch and as soon he grew accustomed to it the wolf licked the surface of her palms. Warm saliva coated the coldness of her skin. She giggled as it licked on it again.
“My turn?” Snow asked.
The wolf found his way back into the bushes giving Snow ample space to shift to her wolf. Although his body was deep back in the woods, Snow felt his eyes as well as his strong presence marked by his scent that replaced the smell of pine. It made her feel warm.
Give it a color, She recalled Torryn say. Before she reached for the hooks of her gown she stared at her hands beneath the moonlight.
“Don’t come near me for a while, okay?” She said out loud knowing Torryn would hear.
Snow closed her eyes letting the warmth stir in her chest. She was far from people she can hurt. Her shoulder eased as she felt her energy move towards her hands. She ushered the rippling force towards her fingers feeling her skin warm with power. On the brink of release, she forced her eyes open.
Whatever came after, she was to open her eyes and face it.
Snow took one final breath and let go. Then, the sounds of the soft waves vanished, the lull of the wind reduced to nothingness. There was only the beat of her heart. It was like sheer weight flowing out of her body, from her back, up to her shoulders, down to her hands.
Give it color.
Slowly Snow raised her hands against the moonlight. At first she could not see anything, there was just her hand, the paleness of her nail beds against the midnight blue sky.
But as soon as she began to move her fingers, she saw something.
Against the moonlight, there was a white translucent haze around her hands that looked almost like burning flame. Its tongues unlike fire flowed soft and slow. She felt her lips raise. It did have color. Then as she saw her hands and the void flowing from it, she became less afraid.
A growl behind her broke her trance as the waves began to sound. The wind resumed its soft hum.
Torryn emerged from the bushes with a stance that fit an alpha.
Under the full moon, the wolf howled its voice echoing through the mountains down to soft waves of the lake.
Just as her gown landed on the soft grass, Snow shifted sending another wolf’s howl following Torryn’s.