Ancient Wolves - Prophecy of the Ruins

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Chapter 24

I woke up to muffled voices and footsteps. For a moment, I couldn’t remember where I was. It looked like my home, but it wasn’t.

I tried to stretch but got blocked by the end of the sofa. An annoyed groan echoed from behind me, and I looked over my shoulder, seeing a wolf pup curled up in a ball.

It all came back to me then. I was at Gunnar’s and Tyra’s bungalow after I ended things with George last night. My mouth was dry, and my eyes burned. I must have cried for what felt like hours.

I sat up and finally stretched my back until it cracked. Svea didn’t bother to wake up properly, and instead took the space I made to spread out even more. She snuggled into the blanket and let out a soft sigh.

Looking around, I saw no one with us. Maybe the things I heard were part of a dream. It was only five in the morning, so I might have made it up.

I tiptoed to the bathroom and hoped the flush of the toilet wouldn’t wake up the rest of the house. It always sounded a hundred times louder when other people are sleeping. While washing my hands, I stared at my face, utterly shocked at how bad I looked. My eyes were bloodshot and swollen, the skin pale and spotty. I sighed and splashed cold water on my face, which didn’t help at all. I gave up and went back to the sofa to join Svea again. It was too early to think about anything, and I wanted to catch a bit more sleep before heading out.

I listened to Svea’s steady breathing and closed my eyes. It didn’t take long before I almost fell asleep again when the door opened and people stepped inside.

“Is she asleep?” Gunnar asked in a low voice.

I sucked in a breath and kept my eyes shut.

“Yes,” Tyra answered.

“Good,” he said, their voices coming closer. “Svea is still with her, too.”

“She doesn’t like to be so close to strangers, and here she is cuddling with one.” Tyra’s voice was so low I had trouble understanding her.

“By now, Amalia is more than a stranger, isn’t she?” Gunnar leaned over my body and pulled the blanket over me, his breath tickling the crook of my neck.

“You are right. Let’s move somewhere else. I don’t want to wake anyone up already,” Tyra said, hearing footsteps and a door closing before it grew quiet again.

I let out the breath I held and opened my eyes. My heart galloped in my chest. I didn’t know why I wouldn’t want them to find me awake. But something about the situation caused me to feel so anxious. I cuddled closer to Svea and pushed my face into her fur, trying my best to calm down.

Loud screaming startled me awake again. Svea stretched with her eyes half closed, completely oblivious to what was going on. My heart was beating up in my throat.

I jumped up, my eyes darting around the room, ready to fight. My blood boiled in my veins trying to figure out why the children were screaming.

The door across from me opened, and I readied myself to attack whoever was trying to attack us.

Gunnar came into view, but when he spotted me, he stopped and raised his hands in the air. I tried to calm down, because if Gunnar was here, and he didn’t panic, then no one was in danger. But even though I knew that, I had a hard time calming down. My senses were so sensitive, it was almost as if I could hear every leaf falling outside. The world appeared crystal clear, and all the smells hitting my nose made my head spin.

“It’s alright, Amalia, no one is in danger. The children are just playing,” Gunnar said in a low voice.

I eyed him for a moment. I knew he was right, and nothing was wrong, but I still couldn’t stop myself from trying to protect them. It was as if I wasn’t the one in control of my body anymore.

Gunnar slowly approached me, and a growl echoed through the room. It took my confused brain a long time to realize I was the one making those sounds.

His eyes flashed dangerously, his pupils dilating. “Stop this, Amalia. You are provoking my wolf!”

I shook my head, trying to snap out of it, but my body felt foreign to me. My brain was fuzzy, and all my thoughts went haywire in my brain. My hands started shaking, while hot and cold surges ran through me like electric shocks. Only when something wet touched my hand, I froze and looked down to see what had touched me.

Svea licked my hand lazily. She was still half asleep, her eyes barely open. Part of her body slowly slid off the sofa, but she didn’t seem to care much.

I took a few deep breaths before reaching down and heaving her back on the sofa. I sat down next to her and brushed through her fur absentmindedly. Exhaustion hit me, almost as if I had run a marathon and written an important exam at the same time.

“What in the world happened?” I turned my gaze back at Gunnar, who was a lot more relaxed now, too.

He smiled. “You were dangerously close to letting your wolf out.”

My heart skipped a beat. I almost wanted to deny it like I usually did, but I was too scared. What if he was right? But I felt so weird, something must be wrong. Or was I afraid to turn back into a wolf?

I cleared my throat. “I heard children screaming, and I thought we were under attack.”

“The kids woke up and started playing in their room. But nothing happened.”

I nodded, staring at my still shaky hands. Gunnar strode over and sat down on the sofa, too.

“I’m sorry. I overreacted,” I said.

“Don’t worry, everything is fine. You only tried to protect us,” he said. “But it throws the inevitable into the room again. I can’t leave you alone here. You are too unstable to be on your own.”

I knew he was right, but I had a hard time accepting the truth.

“I decided to move back home.”

Gunnar turned to me. “Home?”

I nodded. “Back to my parent’s house. I never sold it and it’s mine now. I never had the heart to go back again, but Tyra said no one claimed the territory since my pack died.”

“It’s not claimed, that’s true, but weird things happened there from what I heard. People are talking about cursed ancient magic. Are you sure you want to go back?”

I smiled. “I grew up around the so-called ancient magic and never experienced anything strange. Pretty sure I won’t have any problems.”

“Do you know about cursed ancient magic?”

I shrugged. “Not really. My grandparents often talked about some kind of magic from the ruins in the forest, but my parents weren’t big believers. Sometimes I felt fuzzy when I roamed in our territory, but that’s all. I’m sure whatever people are talking about must be some sort of urban legend.”

Gunnar stared at me, remaining silent. After the entire ordeal with the necklace, I wouldn’t be too surprised if something magical was going on with the ruins. But to me, it was another reason to go back. Maybe I could find out what happened to me and why.

“The house probably needs a lot of work, but I have money saved up. And since I don’t have a lot of stuff to take with me, moving there won’t be such a big hassle. The house is very isolated, too, so no one might be in danger because of me,” I said after he remained silent.

“What house?” Tyra asked from the doorway.

“Her family’s house. She wants to move back,” he said, sounding like he didn’t fancy the idea at all.

Tyra’s eyebrows shot up. “Already?”

“It’s the best solution. I wouldn’t be in your way and I would be far away from other people.”

“You wouldn’t be in the way,” Gunnar said.

The two kids ran into the room, causing a ruckus. “We are hungry!”

Tyra sighed deeply. “Yes, I will make breakfast in a minute. Just be patient for a little longer, okay?” They nodded and retreated to their room. Tyra focused back on me. “I’m not sure if I feel comfortable knowing you are alone somewhere.”

“Why not? There are no other packs in my territory, and I wouldn’t have any direct neighbors. No one would be in danger. Besides, we have been talking about that solution before.”

She nodded. “I know, but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. You haven’t shifted in a while, and we all don’t know what will happen if you do. It might be better if someone would watch over you.”

“I’m sure I’m old enough to take care of myself,” I said, crossing my arms.

“We know you can take care of yourself, but what has happened to you is something completely new for everyone. What if something goes wrong?” Gunnar asked.

I dropped my arms. “I hope you will understand my decision. It was never my plan to move in with you.”

The two shared a look before Gunnar sighed and ran his finger through his hair. “I can understand your decision, and we won’t stop you from doing what you want. We don’t hold such power over you. If you believe moving back is your best option, we won’t hinder you, but we hope you might reconsider. You are welcome at our place until we can figure something else out.”

I smiled. “I appreciate your offer, and I hope we can try to stay in contact, even when we part ways again.”

“Don’t worry. I already told you I don’t plan to lose contact with you,” Tyra said, a broad smile on her face.

“We still would like you to join us for the BBQ tonight. Take it as a farewell party for you, too,” Gunnar added.

I wanted to decline, but saying goodbye might be a good idea. “Okay, I will stay for your BBQ. But tomorrow I will leave.”

“Is everything settled with your work already?” Tyra asked.

“Yes, I handled that yesterday before coming here.”

She bit her lip. “Will you tell George?”

Hearing his name was like being punched in the stomach. I shook my head. I didn’t want to think about George, and I hoped I could avoid him until I leave. When I’m away, it will be easier for me to stay away. “I think it would be better if I didn’t tell him.”

Tyra nodded, and silence settled between us.

Gunnar cleared his throat. “Did something happen to George? Something other than the pendant exploding?”

Tyra glared at him, shaking her head.

“You didn’t tell him?” I asked. I expected he would have known everything by now, especially because I crashed their place last night.

“It wasn’t a story I wanted to share with him. I only told him you needed a place to stay for tonight.”

“Did you have another fight?” Gunnar asked.

“It wasn’t a fight, more an end,” I whispered. I didn’t want to talk about last night, and I was worried he would throw a witty comment. I didn’t want to hear how much better off I was without him now, or anything along those lines.

But to my surprise, he didn’t react like I thought he would.

He nodded, understanding shimmering in his eyes. “I’m sure that wasn’t easy. You plan to leave without telling him then?”

I nodded. “That’s why I have to leave as fast as possible. It might seem weird, but I feel like I might change my mind if I see George around all the time. Besides, I think it will be easier for him, too. I don’t think he agrees with our breakup. Tomorrow morning I will leave this place and go back home. He doesn’t know about my old family’s house, so we shouldn’t see each other for a while.”

“Okay. Reach out for help if you need any. We have many craftsmen in the pack working in various fields. I’m sure we can strike you a good deal,” Gunnar said.

I smiled. “Thanks, I will keep that in mind.”

The kids stormed back into the room and demanded their breakfast again. Tyra laughed and stood up, starting to prepare their food. I wanted to leave and pack some stuff already, but she didn’t want to hear any of that, so I ate breakfast with them.

“I will accompany you to your bungalow after,” Gunnar said and took a big bite of his sandwich.

“You don’t have to,” I said.

“I know, but I want to.”

I gritted my teeth. He probably just wanted to make sure I wouldn’t turn into a bloodthirsty wolf on the way from their bungalow to mine. It was as if he didn’t trust me. But then I remembered the fear taking hold of me earlier and realized it might not be a bad idea if he came along. Besides, my hands were already sweaty only thinking about meeting George, and having Gunnar by my side made me a little less anxious.

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