Following a hot shower, Evie slipped into a pair of royal blue silk pyjamas Samara had left out on the bed. With a loud sigh, she flopped on the bed, gazing up at the floral patterns on the roof. Her ears picked up the babble from the other annexes attached to the main house of the Bluemoon Circle coven.
She couldn’t figure out why she missed home so much now; it hadn’t felt like home in a long time. Wiping her face, Evie pushed the towel swaddled around her wet hair back and dragged the thin almond blanket over her legs as she sat up.
There was no sleep for her tonight. It was her first night away from the beautiful Crowe mansion since the academy, a castle that barred her from enjoying all the benefits of being the high Lady of Lethuoca.
It was already two in the morning; if Ethan hadn’t been in Broxbridge for the Christening, he would be in her chambers now and would have discovered her gone. With a smile, she remembered his late-night visits to cheer her up with wine and games, as well as old forgotten wolf legends.
She would miss him most of all.
“Evie,” Samara called with a gentle knock.
“Come in, Sam.”
With a smile on her face, Samara poked her head through the door before entering.
“How are you settling in?” She shook her long red hair. “My annexe may not be as grand as your castle, Lady Crowe, but this is the best I can do.”
“This is amazing, Sam. Thank you for having me.” Evie stretched her limbs. “And enough of this Lady Crowe nonsense. You know my name, so use it.”
Laughing, Samara lowered herself to the side of the bed. “As you wish, Evie.”
Her wavy red locks bounced as she pulled her legs off the floor and tucked them under her. Now that they were on the mainland, Samara appeared to be more relaxed. As she watched Samara’s crimson hair glisten with a lustrous vibrancy, Evie wondered if it would suit her. Changing her hair colour might be one of the many new experiences she could try.
“Evie, I worry about what you are doing. Are you sure this is a good idea? Starting a new life as someone else in another country?” When Evie did not answer, Samara turned to face her. “It won’t be long before your brothers come looking for you.”
“I need to get out there and live, Sam. I’ve wasted enough time being isolated. I don’t care how dangerous it is anymore.”
Using her fingers, Samara combed through her hair. “You are an unclaimed blessed fur, the only female blessed fur, and I have heard unkind stories about the wolves of Eknå. What if something terrible happens? Evie, you don’t have your wolf abilities.” Samara grabbed her hands. “You should stay here instead. Our coven’s ward is powerful, and our grand witch is a follower of the earth goddess, soon to be a Sage.”
“Get rid of that idea. I can’t stay in Lethuoca, and if my brothers find out your coven was hiding me, I won’t be able to control the outcome.”
“We must find another way. Something that does not involve you going off alone.”
Evie squeezed the back of Samara’s hands. “It’s the only way I’ll be able to live the life I want.”
There was nothing she wanted more than to be free. To form ties with people who didn’t feel bound or threatened by her identity. With no purpose, she wanted only to sail the world and discover sights beyond language’s ability to describe.
Smiling, she slipped her hand from Sam’s. “Why don’t you tell me what you’ve been up to? I haven’t seen you since graduation.”
“The academy feels like a million years ago.” Samara shook her head. “I’ve mastered the skill of protection and conjuring, but I can’t harness my healing ability.”
“You’ve always wanted to be a sister of Raven’s Nest; I was surprised to learn you pledged the Bluemoons Circle.”
As Samara shrugged, she looked around. “The sun god rejected my fealty; I apparently lacked the strength and the fire to gain his blessing.”
“It’s nothing,” she told Evie. “The interesting thing is Lord Kesh. He is an apprentice to the Raven’s Nest Sage. Do you remember him? Oh, how his face fell when he found out your guardian was high Lord Crowe.” Samara burst out laughing.
Lord Kesh was so relentless in pursuing her at the academy that she revealed it against her better judgment, to get him to back off.
“How could I forget? I told you the truth about my identity that day.”
Samara nodded. “How have you been? I wrote you letters after your father passed, but I heard nothing back.”
Letters? She only received the one. That damn Liam! Ever since he ascended as high Lord of Lethuoca, he had grown increasingly controlling and unreasonable.
“I couldn’t write back.” Evie leaned against the brown headboard with a hefty sigh. “Lord Crowe confined me in my chambers, no interaction with anyone but Kaitlyn. I apologize.”
“It really got that bad?”
“You have no idea. It’s as if being a female, blessed fur is such a terrible thing.”
“Your brother’s reign has been…” Samara trailed off with a pout. “I don’t have kind words,” she added.
“I don’t either.” Evie shrugged.
Liam had only been high Lord of Lethuoca for two years, and he had somehow become a tyrant.
“Are you attending the Christening?” she asked Samara out of nowhere, trying to keep her mind clear of her intimidating brother.
“Damn straight! There’s no one alive who wouldn’t attend if they had the chance. We’ve only heard stories about it, so why would anyone pass up the chance to see it?”
“What possessed the Broxbridge blessed furs to take the quest anyway?” Evie asked, hiding stubborn strands beneath the towel. “The other tribes have resolved the alpha’s ascension without resorting to such extremes.”
Samara sighed in exhaustion as she slumped on the bed. “Our tribe’s four blessed are impossible! No one wants to yield for the other. It’s gone on too long, and now the goddess intends to put an end to it. You cannot imagine ten years without an alpha because all four are equally matched.”
Evie laughed. “Equally matched, that can’t be right?”
“They have tied in all the other quests, and when it came time for three to yield for one, none did.”
“Are they equally strong or equally weak?” Evie pondered. “There are four distinct elements involved, it’s unlikely that their abilities are equal. Come on, Sam, none of the others could cancel the brown fur telepath? There’s crimson fire and frost, not to mention the black fur’s wicked shadow, how is that even possible?”
Samara’s brows furrowed in thought as she sat back up. “I get what you mean, and I’ve heard the crimson and black fur are nightmares, and I never hope to meet them. But the brown fur, Lord Saxe, is a yummy wet dream by the way.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Lord Saxe is a gorgeous unmated wolf Lord, and that is very important. Plus, I work at their shipping company in the lowlands. I’ve seen him a few times, and he has headlined a few erotic dreams.”
Evie shook her head with a laugh. It did not explain how they were evenly matched, or so stupid to enter the goddess’ lair. Only one of them would survive.
“Evie. I watched one of his aglikai, and Lord Saxe is one of the most powerful brown furs. He has ascended beyond mere telepathy. He is telekinetic in every form of the ability. I mean, Lord Saxe was able to use Lord Ulrich’s ability against him, freezing him in fear. It was so rousing to watch.” Samara continued.
“I’m guessing Ulrich’s the white fur?”
Samara gave a nod.
“Hmm, your brown fur sounds like a nightmare. I’m starting to understand this entire situation. The bulls locked horns, and no one will bulge.”
“Now you get it! At this point, it was either the Christening or Broxbridge went with four or no alpha.”
Evie shook her head, puzzled. “I’m not sure what to make of this,” she said. “Well, be that as it may, their tenacity has made it possible for us to witness a Christening in this lifetime, so it works for me.”
“The entire country agrees.” Samara nodded slowly. “We have to remain invisible until then and even when we are there since the Ecclesia and Commander Crowe will be present.”
“Well of course.”
Evie had no plans on leaving the mainland before the ceremony. It would be up to Samara to whip up a masking spell, so Ethan couldn’t pick up her scent at the Christening.
“Sam, the last thing I wanted to do was to put you in this position. I just… I have no one else.”
While Samara struggled with a response, she recalled how often she wished she was a regular wolf or a witch but never a human. She had always craved the prospects of having powers; to be carefree and unguarded, and now that it was almost within reach, she felt alone.
“Come on. We promised to walk through fire for each other, but I had no idea it would actually come to that.” Samara puffed, and they both laughed. “It’s really not a big deal. The defiance is new to me, is all.”
“You couldn’t have picked a more desirable time to be defiant.”
Samara shook with laughter, then she climbed out of bed and took pause as she turned back to Evie.
“I suspect that our grand witch will be at Bluemoon’s main lodge today. We have to keep out of sight in the lowlands at sunrise. You cannot be here when she arrives, she’ll sense you.”
Evie nodded. “We shouldn’t have any trouble in the lowlands. The high Lords don’t go down there.”
“Rarely. The majority of them go to the Vert district, which is precisely why we are not going there.”
In hindsight, it would have been better to stay on the mainland until the Ceremony and then board the Eye of Ulrich. But if the grand witch sensed her here, she would know she was a high Lady and insist, as was the tradition, to escort her to the Broxbridge’s black fur compound where Ethan was lodged.
“But damn the gods, Evie! Your identity could save us from anything.”
Evie laughed, “Now you understand my conundrum.” For while her name could get her anywhere, she couldn’t use it. It was both a blessing and a curse. “It’s humbling to have all that power within reach and yet be unable to use it.”
“That is most certainly true.” Samara agreed.
And Evie knew exactly what Samara meant. She watched her friend, wondering about what was hindering her from harnessing her fire to earn the sun god’s blessing, Samara had so much potential.
She scoffed and shook her head; she was no better. A worthless Crowe who had to be locked up for her own protection, a black fur Crowe with no abilities, was in no position to judge someone else’s potential.
“Get some rest.” Samara rose and looked at her. “Just double checking here, are you sure the wolf from before wasn’t a blessed fur.”
Evie clutched her chest to quiet the sudden pounding. He was unmistakably a black fur, just like her. But that information would alarm Samara, and she did not want that.
“It would be hard to know for sure, not even I could tell the difference between blessed wolves and blessed furs unless they used their ability.”
“We are alright then; he won’t be able to track us.”
If he was a regular wolf or a blessed wolf, Samara’s magic would throw him off their trail. The black furs, on the other hand, were the most formidable of the four blessed furs for a reason. Their shadow could track anyone–living or dead– once they caught a whiff of their scent.
And that was why she knew she wouldn’t be able to evade her brothers or her clan for too long. Still, it shouldn’t hurt to try.
She wondered about the black fur now, and the sensation she felt when they connected while holding Samara’s gaze. He knew precisely where they were, but she had a sense he wasn’t going to pursue them. He’d taken over her mind the moment they met in the woods, and she didn’t need any supernatural abilities to figure out what that meant. This was not something she had planned for.
“Relax, Sam. If he could, he would already be here by now.”
Samara nodded and pulled the door open, “get some rest.” The hinges creaked as she closed the door behind her.
Evie climbed out of bed, unwrapped her hair, and hung the towel on a hook behind the door. Then she went to the window and gazed out into the night.
Was he Broxbridge’s black fur of one of the black furs from other tribes converging here to celebrate the Christening? She did not know, and it bugged her. Looking at her hands, she noticed that the burn scars had healed up well-at least she had that ability.
Would she see him at the ceremony? Her lips stretched in a wide grin as she realized she had to, and with a groan, she mumbled a curse.
By the gods! She was already smitten.