“That’s not possible.”
“You just saw me with your own eyes. What more proof do you need?”
Jackson sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s a long story, but suffice it to say there is truth in your fairytales, although the exact details get somewhat lost over time.”
“And Logan and Jamie are the same?”
“Indeed, who do you think that wolf you met on your journey here was; none other than my youngest brother.”
I staggered to the bed once more, unable to remain standing. My mind was whirling with thoughts and possibilities. I thought back to that wolf and how it seemed to have human qualities, how it seemed to be leading me to this place, and how it had stopped me when I had been captured. I thought it had been a guide, perhaps even a spirit animal, but it had just turned out to be Jamie, and I realized now why I hadn’t seen the wolf around. In fact I had, but it just so happened that the wolf was in human form.
“Why did you bring me here? Did you intend to sacrifice me?”
Jackson looked shocked at the idea. “Oh no! Not at all. We would never do anything like that.”
“Then what did you bring me here for? Why tie me down? Why put me on that altar?”
Jackson breathed long and slow again. “If you want answers to your questions then you must be quiet and listen,” he said. I held my tongue, even though it was difficult, and looked at him intently.
“The wolves have lived within human civilization for a long time. None of us are quite sure how the first wolves emerged to discover these abilities, but one thing we quickly learned was how mistrustful
and fearful humans could be when faced with something new. In the old days it was never that bad because the wolves could live in their own villages away from the main human towns. We could make homes in forests and mountains, in places where humans dared not tread. We developed our own culture and split off into various clans, and for a time we were safe. Some, of course, preferred to live as a human, but even then they could not resist indulging their shifting side and these are presumably the source of your fables. But over time humanity spread across the world like a disease. They dominated the natural world and infected it with civilization, so much so that the wolves had nowhere to hide. We had to change our way of living and hide in human culture because there was nowhere else for us to go, but we never lost sight of our true nature. We lived two lives, but the clans stayed bonded, meeting whenever they could. Traditions were passed down from father to son, as were blood feuds.
Over the years the wolves learned how to blend in with humanity, how to be skilled at hiding our true natures. Occasionally wolves stray and make mistakes, but there are never enough for anyone to become suspicious, and if there are they never find enough to confirm their suspicions, or people never believe them. For the most part we are left to live our lives in peace and we often do, but there are those who would seek to cause us harm.”
“These blood feuds?”
Jackson nodded. “I would prefer them to fade away. Some of them have lingered for years, centuries even, and show no sign of abating. Most wolves do not bother with them, for we have all come to understand that some traditions should be forgotten. But, occasionally, along comes a wolf who wishes to return things as they were, to bring back the old days where we are beholden by tradition and where the blood feuds boiled over to create great clashes.”
“And now you’re embroiled in a blood feud?”
Jackson nodded somberly. “There is a wolf named Ishmael who would seek to destroy us. The feud goes back centuries where our ancestor apparently stole a kill from Ishmael’s ancestor and thus stole his honor. The truth of the matter is disputed of course, but there is no way to know the details in any case, and quite honestly it doesn’t matter. Both clans live in the same manner. It is just a matter of principle for Ishmael, but all his calls for combat have been declined. None of us wanted a fight, so he brought one to us. He and his clan slaughtered our home, killed every one of us, and only the three of us escape alive. We retreated here, but he has scouts searching the country for us, wanting to see an end, believing that only by wiping out the clan can he make amends for his ancestor. That’s what wounded me.”
I looked at the wound again and noticed how it was fading quickly. I understood now how Jackson could have healed more rapidly than any other man.
“And I’m guessing you can’t just talk to him?”
“Ishmael is not a man that can be reasoned with. He is quite insane. He has tried to rally the clans to form an army and take the fight to humans, to reclaim this land for the wolves and push back human civilization. The rest of us would prefer to live peacefully, but it seems as though not all of us are going to have our wish. I don’t want to spend my life fighting him off. I have lost too much already.”
“He doesn’t sound like a pleasant person. I’m sorry that all this has happened. I can’t imagine what it was like for you to lose your clan like that,” I said. I was still reeling from learning that he was a werewolf. It was difficult for me to process everything else he was telling me, but it certainly went a long way to explaining why he and the others were on edge. “But I still don’t see how I fit into all of this. Why bring me here? What makes me so special?”
Jackson smirked. “Don’t worry, you’re not the subject of a prophecy or anything like that.”
Part of me was dismayed. All of my life I’d been told that I wasn’t special, so the thought that I was central to a werewolf prophecy had brought me a great deal of delight, but I supposed it was too much to ask for that to come true as well.
“But as I said it is our duty to make the clan strong again, to maintain the traditions and pass on the lessons that were passed down to us. In order to do that we need children, and the children must have a mother.”
At first I couldn’t believe what he was saying, but as the truth dawned on me I felt my skin crawl. There was a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach and I couldn’t quite believe he was actually implying what I thought he was implying.
“You wanted me to be the mother?” I asked.
Jackson nodded sagely.
“Well,” he said, “the mother of werewolves must be a strong-willed person, fierce and independent. These are qualities that must be passed one. But we also needed someone who would not be missed, who would not have anyone come after here. We needed someone strong enough to endure the process, but who was also forgotten by the world, and when I saw you I knew that we had found the woman who was going to be mother to our children. It just so happened that you didn’t come with Mel and we were forced to change our plans. We never intended any harm to come to her, or you for that matter.”