Mage's Fire

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Twenty-Three: Riley

“Nadia! Answer the phone, dammit. I need to talk to you.”

I sighed heavily as I ended the voice message, tossing my phone into the backseat of Kai’s car. He glanced over and said, “I’m assuming it’s bad?”

I nodded. “Very,” I said. It was Friday after school, and Nadia skipped all three days. She wasn’t returning my calls or texts, and when I went to her house to check on her, she wasn’t there. I confronted her father, demanding that he tell me where she was, but he said that Nadia’s instructions were very clear and simple: “Don’t tell Riley.”

I was pissed. Not because she kissed me, but because she was ignoring me. I sighed heavily, thinking back to our girl’s night. When she kissed me, I didn’t feel anything except shock and certainty. I was surprised that it happened at all, but my suspicions about her were confirmed. I’d had a feeling for a couple of years now that she was into girls. Anytime we’d talk about boys, she wasn’t as engaged as she was when we were in middle school. Once we hit freshman year, all of that changed.

I sighed again and twisted around in the seat, reaching into the back for my phone again. It didn’t ring this time. Instead, it went straight to her voicemail: This is Nadia, otherwise known as the most amazing person in the world! If you’ve reached this message, I’m off causing destruction and mayhem with my bestie. You know what to do, and if you don’t… you need help.

I sighed and when the tone beeped, I said, “Nadia, please call me back. I’m worried about you. Please, just… call back, and we can talk about this. I love you.”

“She’ll be fine,” Kai said. “She’s with her grandmother, right?” When I nodded he said, “Then try not to worry. I know that’s not going to happen because she’s your best friend and all, but still. Try.”

I nodded, staring absently out the window. When I told Kai what had happened, he wasn’t worried or furious, like I thought he would be. Instead, he’d said, “She’s at a confusing time in her life right now. She just needs time and space.”

When I went to train with him, I confronted Jack as well. I didn’t tell him about the kiss, but I did ask him if he knew anything. He rubbed the back of his neck and said, “She was worried about feelings she was developing for Sierra and didn’t know what to think about it. I told her it might be that she has feelings for girls and, well… she kind of flipped out on me.”

That sounded like Nadia.

After she kissed me, I watched, terrified, as guilt and shame washed over her face. When she tore out of my room, I chased after her, calling for her to come back. I was so shocked, all of my reflexes were sluggish. I felt like I was running through mud, and every step kept dragging me down. When I reached my front porch and watched her tear off, I was frozen to my spot.

When I finally came to my senses, I ran after her. I didn’t care that I was ruining one of my favorite pairs of socks, that the cement and pavement tore at my feet as I ran. All I could think about was my best friend and how she was hurt.

It was dark when I finally reached her house, and when I stormed into the house, Sheriff Belmont wasn’t even surprised. I ran right up the stairs and threw her door open, but she wasn’t there.

“Where is she?” I shrieked as I ran back down the stairs. I stopped in front of him, my chest heaving.

He shoved his hands into his pockets, a sad look on his face. “She’s with her grandmother,” he said. “After Nadia came home, her grandmother went up to talk to her, and when they came back down, they were packed for a road trip.”

I could only stare. A fucking road trip? Seriously? Why was Nadia running? I didn’t care if my best friend was gay or bi or whatever. She was hurting, and I needed to be there for her.

I sighed, leaning my head back against the seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kai glance over at me. He turned his attention back to the road, but he reached down and took my hand in his own. I held on tightly, nearly breaking the bones with the force of my grip.

“She’ll come around,” Kai said. “Right now, the only thing we can do is keep going. At least she’s safe with her grandmother.”

I sighed again. I knew that, but it still didn’t stop me from feeling like shit.

We turned onto the dirt road leading to the Guardian’s house. Drew, Eddie, and I were going to run with the Guardians, the twins, and Ethan to try and cover some ground, and hopefully catch one of the rogue wolves. If we wanted to reach Jeremiah, we needed some inside information.

As Kai parked the car and we stepped out, I couldn’t stop thinking about Nadia. What was she doing right now? Where was she? Was she okay?

I stopped right before the steps as realization hit me. Stupid! I thought furiously to myself. In my worry and panic, I had completely forgotten about my wolf’s eye.

I crouched down low, pressing my palm to the earth. I closed my eyes and felt for the cord connecting me to Nadia, and once I had a firm grip on it, I flew through the air, following it to her. In a strange haze, I saw her riding in the passenger seat of her father’s personal car, her grandma behind the wheel. Nadia was staring out the window, a faraway, thoughtful look on her face. She was still sad, but she seemed better.

I returned to myself, feeling somewhat better as well. I straightened and looked up at Kai. He was smiling.

“Better?” He asked.

I nodded. “Why didn’t you remind me of the wolf’s eye?” I asked.

He shrugged. “You weren’t ready to use it to find her yet,” he said. When I gave him a confused look, he said, “You have to have a clear mind when using the wolf’s eye. Otherwise, you won’t be able to focus on who you want to find. I could have suggested it, but you would have grown frustrated.”

I glared at him. I understood why he didn’t tell me, and thinking back on it, I guess it did make sense. It didn’t mean I liked it, but I understood.

We went inside the house, where everyone had already gathered. The house seemed huge before, but now it was crowded with a total of ten werewolves. Aside from Kayla, everyone was huge, even the other girls. Compared to humans we were, at least. Werewolves had a naturally fit physique, with thick, muscular legs and broad shoulders.

I glanced over at Sierra. She was sitting in an armchair by the fireplace, a distant, somewhat lost look in her eyes. I remembered what Jack said about Nadia developing feelings for her, and instantly, any anger I felt towards the she-wolf disappeared. She may be a heinous bitch, but if Nadia saw something in her… I suppose I could overlook Sierra’s past and flaws, until she did something to raise suspicion again.

“We ready to go?” Bas asked from where he lounged on the couch. Everyone was staring at me, waiting for instruction. I shifted nervously once, but after an encouraging nod from Kai, I felt more confident.

I drew myself up to my full height and nodded. “We all know what we’re doing?” I asked.

Finn grinned. “Catch, but no release,” he said.

I nodded. “Exactly,” I said.

Simon was scowling. I glared at him and said, “What is it?”

“I don’t like this,” he said. “Why are we wasting time trying to catch them when we need to worry about more important things? Such as killing them?”

I growled. “Because if we can catch one of them, we might be able to get them to lead us to their alpha, and maybe even save them in the process.” That, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the rabid werewolf, how he was younger than I was. Kai caught my eye, and I could tell he wanted to say something, but he was going to wait.

Simon sighed, but he waved a hand and said, “Whatever you say, Silver Wolf.”

I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t like the way he said the name, how it was a stain, something dirty to touch. I stepped up to him, and though he was taller, he instantly cowered. “I don’t like you being here any more than you do,” I snarled. “But until we stop this, your alpha ordered you to listen to me. So do us all a favor, shut the fuck up, and obey.”

He was trembling in rage, but he was smart. He grit his teeth and nodded, then he turned and stormed out the back door. Finn laughed and said, “I better remember not to piss you off.”

I nodded, staring after where Simon had gone. Everyone started making their way to the back door, nearly tripping over each other in their excitement for the hunt. Before I stepped outside, Sierra touched my arm and said, “Riley? Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I looked over at Kai. He nodded and said, “We’ll wait for you.” Then he stepped out, letting the door shut behind him.

I turned to Sierra. She looked exhausted, almost sickly. She was pale, with heavy bags under her eyes. Instead of looking her usual, impeccably perfect self, she was wearing jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie.

“What do you need?” I asked, working to keep the sarcasm out of my tone. She was trying with me, so the least I could do was try, too.

“Do you know where Nadia is?” She asked.

I took a moment to stare at her. If Nadia was developing feelings for her, was Sierra doing it, too? It wasn’t that hard. Nadia’s fun, outgoing personality made anyone who met her fall in love, no matter what kind of love it was.

I shook my head. “No,” I said. “All I know is she’s safe.”

Sierra obviously didn’t like my answer, but she seemed relieved. She nodded and said, “Okay. Just… I’m worried about her.”

I nodded. “I know,” I said. “I am, too. But, as much as I hate to admit this, we have to give her space. She’ll come around.”

“What happened? All I know is that something big happened, and when I went to visit, her dad said that she had to take some time to clear her head.” She looked so anguished, I felt sorry for her.

I shook my head. “That’s for her to tell,” I said. Even though she kissed me, this was something that Nadia had to deal with. And when she came back, I would be right there to support her.

“Okay,” she said, her tone dejected.

I reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t worry,” I said. “Right now, let’s focus on catching a rogue wolf.”

She nodded. “Okay.”


We were spread out in three lines. Kai, Drew, Eddie, Kayla, and I were in the front line, and fifty feet behind us, Simon, Ethan, and Bas were running with their noses to the ground. Some distance behind them, Sierra and Finn were scanning the surrounding woods, noses high in the air to try and catch any scent they could on the wind.

The sky was overcast, promising the threat of rain. I could smell it, but it was far off. It would probably take a day or two for the rain to reach us after the weather tries to fool us with a sunny day.

Sierra howled behind us. I looked over my shoulder at her. Her nose was tilted up, her face and body facing the east. Everyone looked to me and I barked once. We all took off, racing east. Soon, I caught the scent of several rogue werewolves, the rabid wolf among them.

We crested a hill, stopping at the top. Down below were four of the rogues, surrounding the rabid wolf. He was snapping and snarling, saliva dripping from his fangs as he tossed his head around. His eyes were wide, the hazel and gold irises mad and wild.

The wind shifted direction, carrying our scent down to them. The rogues snarled once in our direction, then they turned and raced away. We ran down the hill, and when Simon and Ethan went to go after them, I howled to get their attention. We didn’t need them, not if we had the rabid wolf.

I turned back to him, and the pack hurried to create a circle around him. The wolf snapped and snarled at us, his fur sticking up in every direction. Kai hovered behind me, the smell of his anxiety nearly overwhelming.

Pressure started to build in my head. I whined and shook it, trying to clear the fog away, but it didn’t do anything. I looked over at the wolf, and he was staring right at me. I frowned as I looked into his eyes. Behind the madness, I could see the trapped soul of a teenager. He looked terrified. My heart broke at the sight, and the pressure in my head continued to build.

I ignored it, as well as Kai’s low warning growl as I stepped forward. The wolf snarled, pinning his ears back against his head, tail tucked between his legs as he cowered against the forest floor. I took another step, and the rabid wolf roared, warning me to stay away.

I didn’t know what else to do. I had to reach the part of him that was still human. I shifted, my bones snapping as I turned back into a human. Kai growled again, but I ignored him.

“Hey,” I whispered, trying to keep my voice calm and soothing. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but we can help you.”

His ears flicked towards the sound of my voice, but when I took another step towards him, they flattened against his ears again and he snarled. I held my hands out to the side, trying to appear non-threatening. “Look, we can’t help you unless you let us. Just shift back, and we can take you somewhere that’s safe.”

I heard bones cracking behind me, then Kai was putting his hand on my arm. “Riley, he can’t shift back.”

I glanced at him, being sure to keep my eyes on his face. “Why not?”

He shook his head. “The madness won’t let him,” he said. “We can’t use him for information. He’s gone.”

I looked back at the wolf. He still appeared wild and feral, but I could still see a part of him trying to break free. I heard a bone snap, then the wolf snarled in pain.

“No,” I said. “He’s not. We can still save him.”

“His only salvation is death,” Kai said. “I’m sorry, but he’s too far gone.”

I pulled my arm out of his grip, glaring. “No,” I repeated. “I don’t believe that.” I can’t. I didn’t care how far gone someone was, there was always hope.

I turned back to the wolf, keeping my hands in front of me as I stepped towards him. “Please,” I begged. “Let me help you.”

The wolf whined, some of the insanity leaving his eyes. He snarled in pain as another bone snapped, then he drove his head into the ground. He snarled and whined, struggling to shift back.

I took a step towards him, then another. He growled as I approached, but he made no move to attack. I heard Kai shift back, then I turned my attention back to the wolf in front of me.

“I won’t hurt you,” I said. I kept stepping towards him until I was pressing my fingers into his fur. It was coarse and dirty, but the underfur was soft and thick. He whined long and low in his throat at my touch, his eyes drifting halfway shut.

All of a sudden, he howled in pain as his bones started breaking and moving. I leaped back, watching in horror as his body twisted into a deformed lump of fur, muscle, and bones. He howled again, and the fur started falling from his body as he slowly shifted back into human form.

He curled himself into a ball, hugging his knees to his chest. He sobbed, hiding his face from me. His skin was pale, and his hair was black.

I lowered myself next to him, kneeling on the forest floor. I reached out and touched his shoulder gently, causing him to gasp and look up at me. His eyes were a beautiful, green hazel color with flecks of blue and gold speckled throughout the irises.

“Hey,” I said, smiling gently. “Why don’t you stand up?”

He stared at me with his big, wide eyes. He glanced at the wolves behind me, then back to my face. He nodded and pushed himself up onto shaky legs. He was skinny as hell, but he had sinewy muscles underneath his skin. Looking at him in the light of the half-moon, my heart broke when I realized he couldn’t be older than fifteen.

I smiled as I reached out to put a hand on his shoulder again. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s go home.”

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