Ancient Wolves - Prophecy of the Ruins

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Chapter 12

When everyone finished their meal and left the table, it had gotten dark. A few people wandered around to light the lanterns, making everything look even more magical than it already did. The shining lights I saw all evening jumped back and forth between the lanterns, seemingly enjoying it, too.

“We will start the fire soon,” Tyra said.

“Right, the bonfire you invited me to, conveniently forgetting to mention it’s an entire festival.”

She laughed. “We didn’t know if you knew about Beltane or not. We assumed it because most packs in the region celebrate it, but this way, we could surprise you!”

I shook my head but smiled when I saw the sparkle in her eyes, and a broad grin spread over her face. She looked gorgeous with her blonde, curly hair and a flower crown on her head. She seemed to feel completely at peace.

The longer I stayed here, the more I felt at peace, too. The energy almost had a cleansing effect on my soul, but it might be all in my head. Something I imagine because I’m getting dragged along with the atmosphere.

I couldn’t stop wondering why my family never wanted to celebrate days like these, or why we had no contact with traditions, our ancestors probably celebrated. Why were my parents so against this?

Tyra stood up. “Let’s move closer to the fire.”

I followed her, joining the circle of people spread around the pile of logs.

Three men with bare chests pushed through the crowd and moved into the middle. Tattoos covering their chest and upper arm reminded me of the tattoo I caught a glimpse of on Gunnar’s arm. They carried torches and whispered with each other.

I leaned closer to Tyra. “What is going to happen now?”

“They will perform a fire dance. It’s supposed to protect the pack from evil and bless them.”

Just as she said that they lit their torches and battle-like music started playing. It didn’t exactly sound like a war was about to break out, but it felt powerful, the complete opposite of the lighthearted music they had played before. The sound of the drums vibrated under my feet. The vibration rushed up my legs, causing the hairs on my arms to stand up.

The men positioned themselves in front of the stack of wood and moved to the rhythm of the music. Torches flew through the air with such elegance that it took my breath away. They danced around each other, so close it seemed as if they would touch one another.

Red and yellow lights soared around them, bouncing up and down, as if they were dancing, too. Warmth spread around my ankles, wandering up my legs, all the way to the top of my head. Almost like a warm blanket.

I stared at the scene in front of me, part of me hoping it would never end, but eventually, they slowed down and came to a stop, holding their torches into the pile of logs, enlightening the bonfire with a loud cheer from the crowd.

The lights rushed into the fire, making them burst into even larger flames. The men jumped away, laughing.

The music switched back to a cheerful melody and as on cue, people danced and jumped around the fire.

“What is going to happen now?” I asked Tyra.

She bounced up and down to the music. “Now that the bonfire is lit, it will cleanse and purify the area. But that is only one purpose. Do you see the couples dancing around the fire together?”

I turned back to the fire, spotting a handful of couples jumping around, holding hands. “Yeah, but most of them are without a partner.”

“Those with a partner are pledging their love to each other. The others do it to get rid of evil spirits. When you dance around the fire, it’s supposed to enhance the purifying and cleansing effect and grant blessings for the year. Some even say it boosts fertility.”

My ears perked up. “Does that really work?”

She shrugged. “There is no science proving it if that is what you want to know. Everything happening today is of a spiritual nature. You either believe in it or you don’t. But during these nights, many of us got pregnant before.”

I stared into the flames. “Do you think it will work on humans, too?”

“The blessing is not limited to certain races, species, or people,” she said.

Her eyes said something else, but I still wanted to try it. “Am I allowed to take part?”

She smiled. “Everyone may join. We won’t hold you back if you feel it’s right.”

I wasn’t sure if I should do this, but it felt right. I took a deep breath and slowly moved towards the bonfire, letting myself drift away by the beat of the music.

The heat of the fiery flames touched my skin, and my heartbeat was in tune with the rhythm of the drums. A smile spread over my face as a strange sensation rushed through my body once again, wrapping me in its warm and comfortable embrace. I have never felt this strong and protected before. Like I was invincible. I didn’t acknowledge the others anymore. I had only eyes for the bouncing lights, joining me in my dance. Whenever they touched my skin, a soft electrical shock rushed through my body, making my heart jump. Excitement spread through me and quickened my steps around the fire.

More and more lights wrapped around me, making me feel as if I wasn’t touching the ground anymore, hovering over the grass. I felt weightless and free until a powerful force pushed me away from the flames. I flew through the air and crashed to the ground a good distance away from the bonfire.

The air got pushed out of my lungs, and every bone in my body hurt. I took a staggering breath, wincing in pain. I stared into the dark sky and held my throat. Every breath felt like I was breathing fire. It took me a while to realize that my necklace burned into my skin, and I ripped it off with great effort.

“Amalia!” Gunnar shouted and dropped to his knees next to me. His eyes were wide with worry.

“What happened?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

Gunnar looked me up and down frantically. “I don’t know. The fire just pushed you away!”

I lifted my arm and stared at the glowing pendant in my hand. It was a lot cooler now that it wasn’t around my neck anymore.

“The magic got cleansed,” the old woman from earlier said, appearing in my field of vision.

I dropped my hand and slowly tried to sit up. Gunnar reached out for me and carefully helped me up into a sitting position. “What magic?”

She frowned and took the necklace out of my hands. “This pendant held a strong spell. But it was against all nature. Your dance purified it and broke the spell.”

A cold shiver ran down my spine. “My mother gave it to me.”

She inspected it closely. “She might have tried to protect you with it.”

“But from what?”

She raised a brow and handed me the necklace. “I can’t answer you that, little one.”

I clenched it in my shaking hand. The woman threw me a long look, and her wrinkles appeared even deeper than before. She let out a deep breath and stepped away.

What in the world was going on here?

“Amalia,” Gunnar said softly.

He sounded like he was about to say something worrisome, and my heart sank. “What is it?”

“I’m not sure why, but one of your eyes has an amber color now. The other remained white, though.”

My mouth went dry. “How is that even possible?”

How was I supposed to explain that? I struggled to get back on my feet, and he took my arm to hold me upright.

“I can’t tell you. But you sure look very fascinating this way.”

I laughed dryly. “Because I didn’t look very fascinating with white eyes already.”

I winced when I tried to stand up upright, but I clenched my teeth together and ignored the pain. The stares of the Gunnar’s pack members prickled on my skin, making me want to run and hide.

“Are you feeling okay?”

I stared up at Gunnar. “No, I feel weird and dizzy. I’m so sorry for interrupting your celebration.”

“None of this is your fault. Everyone will continue like usual in no time,” he said, and let his gaze roam around the clearing.

The music got louder again and, one by one, the people turned away from us and started dancing. “But I think it would be better to bring you home. You look pale, and I wouldn’t want you to faint.”

“Yeah, I suppose it would be best if I went to bed.”

“If you want, someone can check up on you. We have doctors around.”

I shook my head. “I think I rather want to be left alone and rest.”

Gunnar nodded and didn’t push it further, respecting my wish. I was thankful for that. I had no energy to argue with him right now.

“Do you think you can bring me home, though?” I whispered, staring at the floor. I felt weak asking him for help, but he was the sole reason I stood upright now.

He tightened his hand around my arm slightly. “Of course!”

Tyra rushed towards us, her hair all over the place and out of breath. “I didn’t see anyone who could have been responsible for what happened. I told everyone to calm down and continue with the night.”

“Thank you, Tyra,” Gunnar said, his voice low.

She nodded. “Should I help with something?”

“No, it’s okay. I will bring her home now. Please, stay here and act like nothing bad happened. If they see you acting without a care in the world, they will feel at ease, too,” he said.

“I will do that. Make sure to bring Mia home safely.”

She glared at him before she turned to me, her eyes softening. “I will check on you tomorrow.”

I smiled and nodded. She seemed like a wonderful person, and I wished we could be friends.

“Okay, let’s bring you home. Can you walk or should I carry you?” Gunnar asked with a grin on his face.

I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t lose my legs.”

He laughed and let go of my arm, instead he placed his warm hand on my back. “Just to make sure you won’t fall over.”

I glared at him but didn’t tell him to stop. Without him holding me up, my legs were shaking under my weight. But I wanted to leave this place with my own strength.

We strolled further into the forest and left the party behind. I only looked back one more time, taking everything in for the last time, saving it in my memory. I spotted Jelto in the back, glaring at me. For someone who was so caring towards me all these years, he surely looked angry and displeased now.

“Don’t mind him,” Gunnar said. Could he read my thoughts now?

I turned around to him. “He seemed angry.”

“And he is, but it’s not because of you. Don’t worry about it, he will calm down soon enough."

I didn’t feel like clearing that up right now, anyway. I had more urgent things to think about.

Gunnar led me through the dark forest. The music grew quieter the more we walked, and it more and more felt like waking up from a dream. Like it all never happened.

“I’m sorry about tonight. I really am.”

“Amalia, stop apologizing. You don’t need to, and you don’t need to feel bad.”

I stopped,. “Thank you for letting me join. I had fun.”

He smiled. “You are welcome. I’m sure it helped you find yourself, one way or another.”

I didn’t answer and thought about his words. It helped me, in a confusing kind of way. I liked the feeling of being part of a community, and a big part of me hoped I could join one again. But it also troubled me a bit. This wasn’t something I could share with George. How was I supposed to return to the life of wolves when George wouldn’t be able to join me?

And why did my necklace explode in my face? What spell did the old woman talk about? What exactly was it that my mother wanted to protect me from?

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