Warrior of the Damned

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8

Darkness was falling upon us, making it harder for me to see rocks, branches, and bushes right infront of me. The moon was absent tonight, covered by a thick layer of clouds. Even though it made it difficult to navigate, I was thankful. Relieved, honestly. I wasnt certain if the moon made a difference for werewolves. I wasnt certain of anything anymore, but it made me feel safe nonetheless.

A short distance from us was a cottage. I could see the candle light flickering through the windows. Smoke was wafting up and out the chimney, dissipating through the black sky. Marek was leading us straight to the tiny home.

We climbed the steps, standing inches from the door. I raised my fist to knock but apparently it wasnt needed as the door flew open, a small old woman appeared before me.

Addy, this is Naevia the Ancient.

I nodded so he knew I had received his thoughts.

Her appearance was less than appealing. She had long gray hair covering the hump on her back. She leaned on a stick, I assumed for support as she surely couldn't stand up straight due to that hump. Deep wrinkles covered her face, her nose seemed unusually large and out of place for the size of her head. Her chin was pointy, the likes of which reminded me of Beval, but he had more teeth than her. Quite a bit more. Her thin lips covered only gums.

Initially, her outward form did not strike fear in me. That changed, however, when her eyes met mine. Her right eye was cloudy white, full of cataract, it wasnt as wide as her left. She squinted this eye more. Her left eye though... that eye was chilling. No pupil in the middle, only an iris. I had never seen such a thing. Even without much light, it was glaringly obvious--a deep violet color.

Her eyes left mine, falling on Marek. She gasped, hand to her chest, "My, my," she whispered, "what a pair you two make!" She suddenly lifted her head, her expression changing dramatically as she scanned the distant woods. She frantically demanded we enter the sanctuary of her home. I was afraid to ask what she saw, so I didnt.

Naevia motioned for us to sit at her table. Marek actually jumped onto one of the three chairs, placing his butt on the seat. It was surprising to see him acting so... human? The floor was not for him anymore. She locked the door behind us, securing it with a large wooden board.

Her table top was full of sticks, flowers and weeds and oddly shaped rocks, some decorated with symbols. A dead bird lay on the wooden top infront of one of the chairs, I decided against sitting in that seat.

She joined us. Silently evaluating the two of us. She turned to Marek, "You bring danger to my home, Marek, as I know what hunts you. Why are you here?" She knew his name? Well, obviously... he did know hers. My thoughts feverishly scanned through the very few times Marek was ever out of my sight. It was rare but it had happened before.

Need guidance.

She nodded as if she understood. Could she hear him too? Naevia noticed the confused look on my face and reached out, patting my hand with hers. It was cold and rough.

"My dear," she spoke, looking me right in the eye, "Let me start first with an explanation, as you appear very lost in all this." She was dead on. I was lost. Very.

"I will not give you all the details, as I suspect Marek has not revealed one to you, yet," she eyed him, "Regardless," she waved a hand infront of her face disapprovingly, as I felt she was upset with my companion for something not known to me, "Marek is special. Too special. Among his people he is referred to as a Warrior. This is not the same term used by man, as he is not meant to charge into battle in the traditional sense."

"His powers make him a target in his pack, or werewolves as you know them to be," I frowned. There was no way Marek was one of those savage beasts. I would never believe that. I couldn't fathom it!

I put my hand up, stopping her from going any further, "Are you telling me Marek can turn into..." I couldn't even finish my question. I couldn't force my mouth to speak that word.

"A werewolf?" She completed my question, quite annoyed, "Yes. If he must, then he will. He chooses this form," she motioned toward my dog, "as it masks the Damned One. Werewolves use this as a way of blending in with real wolves. It's a safety measure."

"So, anyway, as I was saying," she shot me a glare, letting me know I wasnt to interrupt again. Marek growled softly beside me. She ignored him. "His extraordinary abilities go far beyond being selected as an Alpha. He is the One and Only. You would refer to it as King." I stared at him, startled, he was avoiding my eyes.

"There is a hierarchy in wolfpacks. Werewolves are no exception to this. However, their spot within the pack, their place inside the hierarchy, is determined at birth, not by lineage. Why it is this way we can only guess."

Naevia pushed the strange items cluttering her table top to the floor. She searched the pile, locating random rocks, different sizes and without symbols and placed them strategically infront of her. She put the largest rock at the top. Every rock she sat beneath it became chronologically smaller and smaller. I soon understood what she was attempting to do.

She pointed to the largest rock, at the very top, "If this was the pack, here is the Warrior. At the very top, he is responsible for the survival of his clan," she moved her finger to the rock beneath the one she symbolized as the Warrior. "Second in command is the Enforcer," she proceeded down the rocks with her finger, one at a time," the Seer, the Shifter, the Seeker, the Hunters. There are usually more than one Hunter. They would be akin to Omegas."

"What do they do, exactly? I mean, what are their roles?" I was intrigued now, I needed to know.

"The Enforcer does precisely as his title suggests--he enforces pack law. The Seer is something of a prophet. He can see the future," she rested her elbows on the table,"the Shifter I will get to in just a moment..." she trailed off, thinking for a short bit, then continued, "a Seeker, searches for the prey as they have a more enhanced sense of smell than the others. So that leaves the Hunters, who follow the Seeker and kill the prey."

She waved her hand toward Marek, "The Warrior is the only one who possesses all of the traits of the pack in one body, which would be threatening, as you can only imagine. But generally, these roles do not intertwine amongst the rest of the pack. Generally." She stressed that word. "In light of the recent events brought forth upon your Kingdom, its obvious the entire pack is playing the roles of Seeker and Hunter. This is not unheard of, unfornutely."

"Now, when Marek was discovered to be Warrior, he was cast out. Left for dead by whichever pack member was craving power over the pack." My eyes widened, that was how I had found him. They tried to murder him!

I was furious. How dare they even think about harming such a sweet soul. My blood was boiling. I imagined all the delightfully hideous ways I could make them pay for such a heinous act! Then I remembered the slaughter at the castle... Werewolves would most definitely laugh at my feeble attempt to strike fear in their hearts. I am certainly not a formidable foe. I felt defeated.

She carried on, not noticing the change in my demeanor, "now, circling back to the Shifter. The Shifter has the ability to take human form. He mingles amongst men, a spy for the pack, if you will." I was astonished to realize the inner workings of werewolves were so complicated.

"Marek was discovered by the Shifter, alive and well, living with you, Princess." I looked to him now, his blue eyes no longer avoiding me, they looked sad.

I caused this.

"Oh Marek, no! No, this isn't your fault! If anyone is to blame it's me, I was warned but didnt listen." I laid my forehead on his, "I would do it all again if given the choice."

The old woman, leaned into the table, surprise on her face. She lifted her eyebrows "You can hear him?" She asked. The amazement in her tone was not lost on me.

"Yes," I replied. I knew it wasnt normal, she didnt need to explain that.

She looked from me to him and back to me again. She grinned, toothless, and leaned back in her chair. She crossed her arms infront of her and smiled at us... lovingly?

"He Bonded the two of you" This statement was a little too vague for me. I stared at her quizzically.

"A Bond is created amongst pack members that are considered soul mates," she explained. I leaned in, still needing more information on this, "Soul mates are rare in werewolf packs..." she trailed off, "Rarer still, is if one of those souls is human, as opposed to wolf."

I stared. Not at her, but behind her, through her, somewhere out in space, dumbfounded. I had referred to Marek as my soul mate before but I never imagined there was any solidification in it. He was a dog for Christ's sake! No, a werewolf...

Naevia, as if reading my thoughts, explained further, "The term 'soul mate' has been dilluted over the centuries. People use the word now by referring to a love they feel they cannot live without. This is not the true definition of a soul mate."

"Soul mates have lived many lives together. Above"--she pointed to the sky with her finger--"as well as below." She flattened her hand, bringing it horizontal to her chest. I assumed she was indicating the ground, or Earth, more specifically. "It matters not how many times you choose to come back in bodily form, you will always find each other. It's not always 'love,' as people think of it. It's not a physical knowing. It's a deeper connection... underneath the skin, the bones, the blood... the heart. The soul recognizes its mate. Whether one is consciously aware of it or not."

I sat there, speechless. Everything was falling into place... everything was starting to make sense. It all seemed so... unbelievable. And yet, not unfamiliar.

"You said this was rare... how so?" I inquired.

"It has only happened one other time in werewolf history..." her eyes turned sad and she looked a way. And then it hit me. I jumped out of my chair excitedly, knocking it to the floor, "YOU bonded to a wolf!" I was quite proud of my observation, grinning at her knowingly. But then, she laughed at me.

"Oh no, my dear!" She was still laughing, I felt my cheeks flush. How had I gotten that so wrong?

"I was the wolf." She declared.

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