Page 26 of Her Three Wolves

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“I’m sorry for what I did,” I began. He tensed, and his head drooped. “I didn’t mean to hurt you I just wanted to escape. I’m sure you can understand that. You brought me here against my will, of course I was going to use any means to escape.”

“I don’t blame you it’s just…you chose me. You picked me because I was the weakest one, the easiest to manipulate. If you can do that then how am I ever going to be a good wolf? How am I going to make my family proud? We’re supposed to be creatures of instinct, and yet my instincts let me down.”

“You may be a wolf but you’re a young man as well, and believe me hormones play havoc with the body.”

“That’s not enough of a reason. I shouldn’t have been so quick to fall into temptation. I should have been more cautious and thought logically about what was happening. I knew in the back of my mind there was no way a woman like you would have been interested in me without an agenda.”

His body trembled and his fists clenched at his side. His voice was broken, like cracked ice, and I saw in that moment how much I had hurt him. I never intended for that to happen and I wished I could have done more to soothe his aching feelings. He was so innocent, so young, and I had betrayed vows I had made to myself a long time ago. I remembered how I had been hurt in the past and I never wanted to do the same to someone else. The first forays into love and intimacy were supposed to be times of joy and bliss. The heartache was supposed to come later.

“That’s not true at all Jamie. I meant what I said earlier, about you being brave and kind and compassionate. I enjoyed our time together, and I’m sorry it ended up this way. I never wanted you to feel like it wasn’t earned. You’re a good man, a handsome man, and there are far more women who are more worthy of your love than I. Please don’t let this taint your views on love going forward. If you ever find someone who you truly love you must go out and enjoy the time you spend together. Don’t think back to how I hurt you, please.”

Jamie looked pensive. I realized that only talking about it was going to make him worry more, and linger on the anguish of the moment rather than the joy he felt. I squeezed his arm again.

“Come, take me down to the altar and tell me of your culture. Jackson told me you know a gr

eat deal about the mythology. I would like to hear about it. He spoke about you like you are a learned man.”

Jamie smirked at this. “I only wish I had completed my training. Sometimes I feel as though I spent too much time studying. If I had trained as a fighter I may have been able to do more to help.”

“I wouldn’t think like that. There are always things we regret, always things we feel we could do better, but we never know how things would have turned out otherwise. The best thing we can do is remain true to ourselves. If the clan is going to be remade they are going to need someone to remind them of where they came from, and that person is you. You should be proud of what you have learned. You are going to be very important for the future Jamie, of that I can be sure.”

He nodded in thanks and some of the tension between us seemed to have dissipated. We turned away from the night sky and walked back into the cabin, down into the basement where the altar stood. The dim light flickered and now that I was here without being frightened or in a panic I could take better stock of the room and the altar. The pictures on the side depicted men and wolves, presumably famous wolves throughout the centuries.

“What was this altar used for?” I asked.

“It is said that to make a new generation strong the children should be conceived on the altar so that the strength of the Moon goddess will flow through them. This stone was imbued with magic a long time ago, and the carvings represented the strongest wolves of our clan, one day I shall carve Jackson onto the side as well,” he said with reverence in his voice. “Jackson was the one who built this cabin here, protecting the altar from anyone who might stumble upon it.”

I reached out and placed my hand against the cold stone. When I had been strapped to it I hadn’t felt anything like magic emanating from it, but now I shivered and I could almost feel an aura rising within me. This place was sacred to the wolves and it was slowly becoming sacred to me as well.

“So this altar has been the birth of your clan over and over again? How many times has the clan needed to be rebuilt?”

“Too many to count. In old times the clans were bloodthirsty and sought to destroy each other. Many times the clan was only able to flourish because two people had survived, and much is the same for other clans, but it has been many generations since this altar was used. Ever since wolves went into hiding and humans swarmed over the land the wars between wolves have been few and far between. Never before have wolves enjoyed such a time of peace, which is why it was so surprising for Ishmael to attack us.”

“Isn’t he afraid of disappointing the goddess? I’m assuming she wouldn’t like her children to fight amongst themselves?”

“The goddess is fickle, and her desires are never truly known. Some believe that she values strength above all else, so people like Ishmael can justify their actions by merely proving that he is the strongest wolf and anyone weaker than him should either fall in line behind him or perish.”

“How do you believe werewolves came into being? Did the Moon Goddess have anything to do with it?” I found the entire subject of their belief structure fascinating. I wasn’t religious myself, for I didn’t believe that a world this cruel could have a guiding hand behind it, but I always enjoyed learning about different mythologies and I wasn’t instantly dismissive of Jamie’s claims. The fact of their mere existence showed that not everything was as it seemed, and after seeing Jackson shift I knew that anything was possible.

“Nobody knows the truth of the tale because it has been lost to the mists of time,” Jamie said, and I got the impression that he had recited these words before. “But it is generally agreed that a long time ago the goddess shone her light down on a particular desperate man. He was fleeing from a wild animal, gasping for breath, and he reached a pool of silver water under the full moon. He sank to his knees in despair and drunk hungrily from the lake, gasping and pleading with his last breath for salvation. He turned and saw the beast behind him, a snarling predator who was hungry himself. The man held out his hands and tried to calm the beast, but their eyes met in the still night, and he knew there was no escape. Under his breath he prayed and prayed, hoping that one of the deities he believed in would help him, but there was only one listening.

The beast charged at him and the only chance he saw was to fall back into the lake, so he opened his arms and caught the charging animal, holding it close to him, falling back. The beast thrashed against the water, its howl was silenced as they sank under the surface and their conflict was hidden from view of mortal men. But the goddess looked down upon them. She had heard his prayers, but in her wisdom she knew there was no escaping the beast. Even if the man had managed to escape he would only be hunted and pursued again, and again, until eventually the beast caught him and tore his flesh from his bones. The goddess knew that the man needed to be given strength and courage. He needed to be more like the beast, and the beast needed the intelligence of the man. So in that silver lake as they thrashed about underneath the water the goddess cast a spell, weaving enchantments together that fluttered down as stardust from the world and landed on the lake. Man and beast wrestled together, until something strange began to happen. They noticed that the more they wrestled with each other the closer they became, until they were moving together. They were being drawn into each other and then suddenly their essences were one. Their souls were bound together, and when they crawled out of the lake they were one entity, two souls in one body. They had each been given salvation, finding it in the other.”

“And from that person all werewolves are descended?”

“He found a mate and formed the first clan. It does not take two werewolves to make a child. The genes are strong, and any mating will result in a werewolf child. There has never been a full-blooded human born to a werewolf.”

It certainly sounded like a fantastical tale, but I had no reason to disbelieve it. Every story seemed to have an element of truth to it after all, and it would have been ignorant for me to just have brushed the story aside as being impossible.

“Over the years the population of wolves grew and traditions were formed. We all pledge our lives to the goddess of the moon and give her our gratitude. We are stronger because of her, and when the time comes to give up our lives we return our souls to her. One day we will all drown in the silver lake, and feel her blessing upon us.”

“Does she ever speak to you?”

Jamie smirked. “Over the years some have claimed to have received visions from the goddess, but I fear they have been mistaken. As far as I’m concerned the goddess is a silent deity. She interfered once to create us, and perhaps over the years she has interfered again, but mostly she stays in the sky, watching and waiting, hoping that we will do our best to follow her teachings. That is why Ishmael’s actions make me so angry. He may think he is justified in what he is doing, but he is going against the teachings of the goddess. She gave us the ability to make clans for a reason, because we are stronger together, and we should have one clan to defend ourselves against outside threats, but Ishmael sees enemies everywhere. He is focused on our differences rather than our similarities and he only wants the glory for himself. He sees any clan but his own as being perversions of wolves, and he won’t stop until he has cleansed the world of any clan but his own.”

“So it goes deeper than a blood feud then?”

Jamie nodded sagely. When he spoke like this he seemed wiser than his years, and he did indeed seem well-suited for the life of a wise man.