The White Wolf
It was dark. Regan was surrounded by darkness, so thick she couldn’t see her hand in front of her. Her chest heaved as she gasped for breath, panic setting in. When she tried to catch a scent of any kind, she smelled nothing. She could hear nothing. The darkness was a heavy weight against her, threatening to crush her. She sank to the ground, hugging her knees to her chest and rocking back and forth.
Was this what death was like for a revenant? She had been begging for this before? She could only hate herself for wanting this before. She never wanted to die again. She’d rather live in misery than have death in this terrible, awful nothingness.
Something brushed by her. It felt like mist, the way it played over her body like it does her fingers. Regan cried out and jumped up, searching in vain for any sign that something, or someone, was there.
“MacEntyre…” a voice spoke from the dark. “Elder sister… welcome to my domain…”
Regan screamed, but no sound came. She fell to her knees, pounding her fists against the ground as she wailed. The dark presence came closer, threatening to swallow her completely.
Suddenly, she saw something. She glanced up, blinking against the sudden brightness of a white light. Standing in the center of the light was a white wolf. Her white wolf.
Regan pushed herself to her feet. She felt the darkness wrap around her legs, unwilling to let her go. She began to run, moving as if she were running through Jell-O. The darkness thickened around her, thick chains wrapping around her legs, torso, and arms, preventing her from going any farther. She screamed and snarled, using all of her strength to escape the bonds holding her.
The wolf howled, and Regan howled with her. Suddenly, the chains snapped, and Regan surged forward. She threw herself to her knees in the light, wrapping her arms around the wolf’s neck. The darkness tried reaching for her, but as soon as the light touched it, the dark, whispering tendrils sizzled. A horrible, wrenching scream tore through the air. Regan screamed in pain, and the wolf tilted her muzzle up and let out a long, low howl. The pain faded away at the wolf’s song, and then the darkness all around them vanished. Regan blinked, blinded by the sudden light. When her sight had adjusted, she looked up.
Grace sat in a chair, staring at the dead body of her sister. The corner of the blanket around her shoulders slipped, but she barely registered the movement. She was in too much shock.
After the Kuren, Caíl, had shown up with Regan’s body, the world fell away from Grace. She had watched as Basil lunged himself at Caíl, fury and death in his eyes. Beck had backed up, not knowing what to do, while Malcolm put himself between the two revenants, preventing them from killing each other.
Caíl had explained what happened, how he and Regan were attacked at his cabin, and that she was killed. Basil, reluctant at first, had finally allowed him to enter the house so Malcolm could tend to Regan’s body. He had cleaned her up, and then set her in a bed in one of the guest rooms. Now Grace was with her, refusing to leave.
All she could think about was how empty she felt at the funeral. She had sat numbly through the procession, and she put her share of roses on her family’s coffins, and threw in her handfuls of dirt. But she had felt nothing.
She couldn’t forget how Regan looked after the accident. The funeral was closed-casket, because the bodies were burned and destroyed beyond recognition. But she had seen her sister’s body, back at the hospital. It was burned into her memory forever.
Now, Regan wasn’t unrecognizable. She was just very pale, and as her body began to heal and regenerate after dying, color came back to her cheeks.
She heard muffled footsteps on the carpet behind her, and then the scent of spice and leather wrapped around her. Basil rested his hands on her shoulders and Grace leaned back, letting her head fall back against his muscled stomach. She reached up to grip one of his hands and she held on, afraid that if she let go she’d spiral downwards into a pit of despair.
“She’ll come back,” Basil said. “She’s Mejhan. She’ll always come back.”
“For how long?” Grace asked. She looked up and said, “It must be exhausting, dying and coming back, for eternity.”
“It is trying, yes,” Basil said. “But in the end, it’s worth it. We are some of the only ones that hold the demons at bay, and prevent the Kuren from taking over the world. Sometimes, a Mejhan will live for themselves for several years. The possibilities are endless.”
She stared at her sister for a moment longer, then sighed as she stood. “I can’t do this,” she said. “I can’t be in the same room as her when she’s like this.”
“I understand,” Basil said. He smiled and tugged on her hand. “Come on. I want to show you something.”
Despite herself, Grace smiled and allowed Basil to pull her along behind him. He led her down a hall she hadn’t seen before, opened a door, and pulled her behind him into a room. A grand piano sat in the center of the room, and a cello rested in one corner. A bookcase with different music books and files of sheet music was pressed against one wall, while guitars, violins, and an assortment of other instruments were scattered around the room.
Grace gasped. “This is amazing!” she whispered. She moved towards the piano, her fingers trailing over the keys, playing soft notes as she sat on the bench. Basil sat beside her, smiling.
“Malcolm’s learned how to play everything in here,” he said. He played out a few notes on the piano, and a lost, wandering expression crossed his face. “He taught me how to play after I became a Mejhan. Sometimes, when I’m feeling empty, I’ll play. Music helps me feel alive.”
She grinned. “I know how that feels,” she said. “Hey, Basil? Can I ask you something?”
“Malcolm told me once that you guys have a House, and he said it was the other mansion on the other side of town. Why don’t you stay there?”
“Houses aren’t a permanent home,” he said. “I don’t stay there often, and it’s mostly new Mejhan that live in a House with an older one, so they can learn how to adjust to their new way of life. Dominic Ansaldo is the head of the Wolf Valley House, and now doubt he’s heard of Regan’s death by now.”
Grace blinked. “That guy that brought Regan… he’s a Kuren, right?”
“Then why was he helping her? I thought Kuren were evil…”
“Generally, yes,” Basil replied. “But, they’re not always evil. Being bad or good is a choice, and some choose to be good.”
“Caíl seems like bad news,” she said. “I don’t know why, but there’s something about him that’s familiar.”
“All Kuren seem like bad new. But don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on him.”
She smiled, and he beamed. He turned back to the piano, and began playing out a familiar tune. Pachelbel’s Canon in D Minor began playing throughout the room, and Grace smiled as the lovely tune made her chest swell. Her fingers itched and Basil, sensing her desire to join him, scooted down so she could have the higher notes. She waited for a few bars, and then she began playing alongside him. Together they played the melody, and Grace found herself getting lost in the music.
She realized she hadn’t played the piano, or sung at all, since the funeral. She had lost interest in everything that made her feel alive. She didn’t feel the same when she painted, sketched, or played music. She only drew anymore to pass the time, so that she wouldn’t be sucked into the darkest reaches of her mind.
Basil seemed to awaken the muse within her. Her body and mind had remembered what her soul always knew—that art and music was always a part of her. She felt light, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders and chest. She felt she could breathe more easily, and as the notes filled her to her core, she closed her eyes, surrendering to the pull of the music.
As the song closed to an end, Grace looked up, her breath taken away when she realized Basil was staring at her. She gulped, and he leaned in closer, closing the distance between them. His breath was on her face, and she was struggling for breath.
He stopped, his lips inches from hers. Her chest heaved, and he whispered, “Tell me to stop. If you don’t want this, then tell me.”
She didn’t say anything. She pressed a hand against the back of his head and pulled him closer, crushing her lips against his. His eyes widened in surprise, and then he relaxed, gripping her waist and holding her closer. Grace sighed and she closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around his neck. The world fell away from her, and the anxious buzzing in her mind was silenced. Now, all she knew was Basil, and how her skin tingled at his touch.
He pulled away, leaving her gasping for breath. She was pleased to see he was struggling to breathe as well. His eyes were glowing, and he was smiling.
“Well,” he said. “I guess you didn’t want me to stop.”
Grace laughed, her cheeks flushed. “I, uh, I better go see if Malcolm has any new exercises for me to work on.”
“All right,” he said with a smile. “I’ll see you around.”
Grace nodded and stood. She hurried from the music room, and for the first time in three years, she found she couldn’t stop smiling.
Sound came to her first. Regan heard people talking, recognized Caíl’s voice among the chatter. Then she noticed smell, and then touch. She smelled Caíl’s scent, cold mountain air and pine. She felt the thick, heavy comforter that covered her entire body. Her stomach rumbled, and she realized that she was starving.
She groaned and opened her eyes, blinking furiously against the light. A heavy pounding filled her head, and she could barely move. Her whole body was sore, and she felt like dying. Again.
“How do you feel?” Caíl’s voice asked to her right. She slowly moved her head, relief washing over her when she saw he was fine.
“Heavy,” she said. “Like I have a brick smashing into my skull over and over again.”
He grinned. “That’s one of the side effects of dying. You won’t be back to full health for another week, but you’ll be able to walk around on your own in a few hours. I’m impressed, actually.”
Regan frowned. “Why?”
“From something like blood loss, it takes much longer for a young Mejhan to return. It only took you four days.”
Regan blinked. “Where are we? Malcolm’s?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Your buddy Basil almost killed me, but I think he’s warming up to me.”
Regan laughed. “Good.”
They fell silent for a long while. He stared at her, and for once in her life, she didn’t mind being stared at. She studied him as well, and she couldn’t help but notice he had bags under his eyes. His skin was pale, and he looked exhausted.
“Were you there the whole time?” she asked.
“Mostly,” Caíl answered. “If I wasn’t, Grace was. Regan, I’m sorry.”
Regan frowned. “For what?”
“For not getting to you fast enough. I tried to fight my way through the horde to reach you, but I couldn’t.”
She shook her head. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It wasn’t your fault. We were seriously outnumbered. Were they Duncan’s men?”
He nodded. “They had to be. He must have found out where I was hiding, and sent his men after me.”
Regan gazed up at the ceiling, her head spinning. She closed her eyes as a wave of nausea rolled over her. She had no doubt that Dom knew about the attack by now. If a huge mass of Kuren like that came too close to the wards, alarms would go off. They would find her scent at the cabin when they went to investigate, and they’d figure out that she was working with a Kuren. Dom was a traditionalist—Kuren were evil, and there was no changing that in his eyes. He’d label Regan as a traitor, and he’d send hunters after her.
Hunters were the most deadly, the elite of the Mejhan. They were charged with the sole task of taking out the most dangerous Kuren, and tracking down runaway, traitorous Mejhan. She’d be hunted her whole life.
Regan sighed. Right now, it no longer mattered. She needed to stop Duncan, to kill him. She needed to protect her sister, and any of the other MacEntyres that were still in the world. But most importantly, she needed to stop him for herself. It went beyond revenge anymore. At night, all she could see was Duncan’s face. He had been friendly to her, to her family. And then he turned around and killed them.
“We need to leave,” Regan said. She turned her head to look at Caíl. He was giving her a confused look and she said, “I can’t be here anymore. Dominic is going to send hunters after me, and I can’t let them near Basil. Besides, Duncan doesn’t live in Wolf Valley. We’re going to have to go to him anyway.”
He nodded. “I’ll go anywhere with you,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”
“Promise?” she asked.
Caíl smiled. “Promise.”