THERON II

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FIVE.

LINA

Once, he was happy.

Carefree and easy going.

Once, he used to laugh. His eyes were irradiant and full of mirth and oh Goddess, was it a sight to behold.

Once, his life was full of color. He saw in only the brightest and most vivid hues. The world was his canvas and he made sure to paint it every day in gratitude and hope.

Once, he had faith.

Once, he had love and compassion.

Once, he was strong and noble, polite and considerate.

Once.

But once is a word only referred to in past tense and we are now light years away from the slightest sense of such a term.

He was excited to tell Cera about the moon goddess. He thought it was a blessing... a gift. Something he could brag about and show off.

It didn’t matter that he had slain the last druid that brought forth her wrath.

It didn’t matter that her expression was anything but giving.

It didn’t matter.

He felt like a god among men.

But with the sharing of information came the coldness of rejection.

“Monster,” Cera had called him.

Soon, the colors he spent his life reveling in changed...

Dark, gloomy, and gray.

Everything was gray.

A perpetual storm cloud hung above his head, following him where ever he went.

And there was no escaping the storm.

No shelter from the deluge...

He was drowning in it.

As the years went on, endless and exhausting, all he eventually wanted was to drown... and in the most literal sense.

He stared with empty eyes as his sliced wrists sewed themselves back together.

He glared at the sky, looking up from the bottom of the cliff he had just thrown himself off... his bones snapping back together.

Good as new.

Always good as new.

His eyes welled with frustration and despair as he hung from the rope meant to end his life... all it did was choke the breath from his lungs for over an hour.

He speared himself with the swords of his enemies so many times, it became repetitive, monotonous, and boring. He only sighed now as the holes filled in and the skin mended, leaving no scars... no sign a wound was ever there to begin with.

He downed numerous glasses of wine, whiskey, and bourbon, patiently waiting for the poison to flow through his veins and shut off his heart.

He awoke every morning to the taunting rays of the sun, another day he still had to walk this godforsaken earth.

And all the while, Cera’s voice reminded him, “Monster.”

Every night the same dream.

Every night the same words.

It haunted him.

Mocked him.

Then, finally, it consumed him.

If he was going to be called a monster then he would show the world just how monstrous he could be.

And that’s when the blood started to flow...

“Monster.”

When he began to enjoy the thrill of the kill...

“Monster.”

When it was all he thought about...

“Monster.”

All he sought after...

“Monster.”

Black eyes.

He always sported black eyes.

He stalked his prey... tortured and tormented. Sometimes by request or for hire but mostly for the personal fun of it or the aggravation they caused him.

But eventually, even that started to wear on him and when the time came that he lost the passion for seeking victims out, he secluded himself.

Hundreds of years he spent in wolf form trekking the Americas, only ever using human form to occasionally check in with his brothers by their insistence.

But even they couldn’t help him.

Couldn’t fix him.

“Monster.”

He was, by all definition, alone.

And it was in that particular state of being alone he was captured by Superlunar.

His fault.

He knew it was his fault... refusing to close his eyes, sick of the same nightmares night after endless fucking night.

They caught him off guard.

Too tired... he was too tired, senses too dulled.

His fault.

“Monster.”

They beat him.

Shocked him.

Cut him open.

Starved him.

Drained him of blood and... other bodily fluids in ways that make me want to vomit.

Injected him with goddess only knows what.

But he wouldn’t die.

He would never die.

“Monster.”

Oh, how he wanted to though. He begged and pleaded with the “whore” goddess to end his suffering... and yet, all he received in the comfort of his misery was silence.

Always silence.

One time, however, and only one time because that’s all it would take, they forgot his sedative. The straps no longer kept him bound. The chains would never again touch his flesh.

The examine tables...

The scalpels...

The needles...

He was free of them all.

And he was pissed.

The blood lust returned full force. He let it control him, devour him.

His senses kicked into overdrive...

The taste of blood.

The smell of fear.

The feel of breaking tendons and crushed bones.

The sight of mayhem and carnage.

But the screams... he loved the screams most of all.

“Monster.”

And when he was finished, when he thought he was safe, his body gave out from months of abuse and neglect and recent bullet holes with hidden canine distemper.

So he did the one thing he had never done... the one thing he refused to ever do.

He called for help.

And then, he met me.

Curious...

He was curious.

What was such a tiny thing doing so close to him?

Why was I not scared?

Not disgusted?

Why the fuck was I looking dead straight into his eyes? Should feel like a challenge... but it doesn’t.

Not a threat.

There’s a pull... why? He wants to know why. My scent wraps around him, comforting his anguished soul and he wants nothing more than to soak in it forever.

Need to protect.

To guard.

“Can I keep you?”

“You’re like the flower and I’m like the prince! Someday, you’ll turn into a boy and we will fall in love and live happily ever after!”

Pft. No happy endings.

“But I’m safer when he’s here!”

Pain, heartbreak... he didn’t want to leave me. He never wanted to leave me.

Had to keep me safe.

They all had to keep me safe.

Marius, DeLoren, and Kai feel the pull as well.

Protect Lina.

“Why does she smell like the moon?”

“I hear papercuts are a real bitch Dan!”

Too long.

He was gone too long.

“Today, tomorrow, and forever...”

Too many years spent executing on the pretense of revenge... all a front.

All a lie.

Only one thing matters...

Only one reason...

Only one truth...

Protect Lina.

But he wasn’t prepared for how I had grown up. Wasn’t ready to admit his feelings changed... there was a different pull now.

A different kind of love.

“Do you love her?”

“Don’t you?”

And with that love came a sacrifice he was more than willing to make. He knew he would die. Knew his immortality was gone but the decision wasn’t a hard one.

It was okay.

It was all okay.

Protect Lina.

“I love you,” he whispered... and he meant it because I had given him something no one else could...

I gave him back his canvas.

I gave him back his colors.

I gave him a reason for being.

“Fancy meeting you here,” he tsked in the blinding white light that engulfed him.

“Hello Theron,” the goddess smiled.

Mom.

Dad.

“She did not desire to see you continue the path you had been on. Your misery was consuming her and in turn, I was losing my sentry... my friend. Something had to be done.”

My purpose.

I am of the moon goddess... And she loved me very much.

“Our grandson needs protecting.”

“Send me back.”

I gasped as my reality was shoved back into me, Veritas now completed.

“Theron,” I inhaled sharply, the air burning my lungs and igniting my heart.

He’s alive.

And finally, so am I.

“Lina,” his face is mere inches from mine, his eyes concerned, yet relieved. He pushes a strand of hair over my ear and the revelation of what I saw is too much. I cannot stop the flood of emotions that suddenly sweeps away my sanity and releases my tears.

“It’s you,” I grab his face, “it’s really you!”

For now I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I have loved Theron for longer than I even remembered.

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