The next morning, I expected another letter in front of my door, but instead, I found a dead rabbit. Blood oozed into my doormat, making me nauseous. Gunnar watched me with a stern expression while I tidied up.
“They are wasting perfectly good food now,” he muttered.
I appreciated he tried to lighten the seriousness of the situation, but I could see the storm raging in his eyes. Not that I couldn’t understand his anger. There was no need to kill an innocent animal But I didn’t want to start another discussion with him and silently dragged him back into the house to eat breakfast. As much as that was possible after seeing that.
It was still hard to look at him after I had fallen asleep in his arms last night. I couldn’t believe I let my guard down like that, and I blame the alcohol. Worst of all was that I hadn’t slept so well in weeks.
After our quick breakfast, I dragged him outside.
“Where are you taking me?” He asked.
“What? Did you forget already? I’m going to offer you to the ancient mages as a sacrifice.”
A low growl left his throat as he grabbed me from behind, holding me close to him. I shrieked in surprise, my heart jumping in my chest.
“I want to see you try,” he whispered into my ear before releasing me again with a huge smirk on his face.
“Careful, and I might as well try.”
He laughed and stepped next to me. “Lead the way. How far away are those ruins?”
“Around thirty minutes,” I said, picking up my pace.
It didn’t take long before we entered the forest. There were several hiking trails to the ruins, so we had an easy time reaching them.
“I wish I could run with you, but there are humans everywhere,” he said, sniffing the air and wrinkling his nose.
I nodded. “Yeah, bad idea. That’s mainly possible when it’s dark or during bad weather.”
Almost as if we summoned them, a group of five humans approached us with loud chatter in the air, echoing through the forest. When they saw us coming their way, they fell silent and haltered to a stop. I could smell the fear in the air, and I once again was surprised by the reaction. Only a few months ago, no one stopped because they saw me. I was just like them. Now they see me and fear me, and they don’t even understand why. Having Gunnar next to me didn’t help the case, either.
We made space and greeted them, which they returned with only a mutter and their gazes plastered to the ground.
Gunnar chuckled when they were out of hearing range. “It never stops to entertain me.”
“You could have dialed it down a bit, oh big alpha,” I teased, making him laugh even louder.
“But where would be the fun in that?”
I shook my head, a smile spreading over my face. He wasn’t all too wrong. It was funny seeing them squirm like that for no reason at all.
Soon we arrived at the ruins, and the closer I got, the stronger I felt some sort of energy pulsing through the air. I never felt this before, and a cold shiver ran down my spine. My wolf howled in my head, feeling scared, yet intrigued by the power radiating from the ruins.
I turned to Gunnar. “Do you feel this?”
He raised a brow and shook his head. “Feeling what?”
I looked back, taking in the energy that almost dared to drown me. “I feel an overwhelming power coming from the ruins. This isn’t something I felt before.”
Gunnar stepped closer, a frown on his face. “Does it feel bad? Is it dangerous?”
I reached out to my wolf one more time, but she didn’t seem to think it was dangerous. Just new.
“I wouldn’t say it feels bad, just overwhelming. I doubt there is danger ahead, though.”
We took the stairs, which were in surprisingly good shape, until we reached the highest spot. The floor vibrated under my feet, making me worry about the safety of this place after all, but nothing seemed to break. It was probably also the energy rushing through me.
From up here, we could watch over the entire forest, spreading out in front of us- an ocean of green. The clouds parted, enlightened the place in sunlight, making it seem as magical as everyone claims it was. And with the energy rushing through me, I could almost believe it.
We enjoyed the view in silence, feeling a sense of pride. Seeing it like this made it almost impossible to believe that this was all my territory. The place I was supposed to keep safe. It made me wonder if the task was too much for just one person after all.
Someone cleared their throat behind us, making me jump. I looked behind me, coming face to face with a young, beautiful woman. She was petite, even smaller than me, with long blonde hair. Her eyes were deep blue, and I have never seen skin as flawless as hers. She didn’t look real, yet she was.
“Who are you?”
“We have been waiting for you, Amalia, alpha of the Ruinas pack,” she said with a soft voice, almost making it sound as if she was singing every word.
I stared at her, my mouth dry, as I tried to find a response.
She turned to Gunnar, lowering her head. “We also welcome you, alpha of Polstjärnan.”
Gunnar grabbed my hand and pulled me closer, hiding me with half of his body. “Who are you?”
She slowly shook her head. “Follow me, and I will bring light into the darkness.”
A sassy argument was about to slip out of my mouth, but before I had the chance to fire it off at her, she turned around and walked down the stairs, disappearing from our view.
“Do we follow her?” Gunnar asked.
I shrugged. “We might as well. She seemed to know us, and she isn’t a wolf. She also isn’t a human either, so maybe she is an ancient mage?”
Gunnar nodded and dragged me after him, his hand tightly wrapped around mine. I didn’t tell him to let go, liking the connection we had. It made me feel stronger for whatever we were going to find out.
The woman waited for us at the bottom of the ruins, and when she was sure we were following, she continued to walk along the path, deep into the forest.
We didn’t exchange a word the entire way. We also had left the usual hiking trails and had to climb over sticks and stones to keep up with her. She didn’t seem to mind the hindrances at all. It almost looked like she was floating over them.
The longer we walked, the more I lost my sense of orientation. Eventually, I was convinced we had left my territory, making me feel uncomfortable. Only the calmness of my wolf kept the panic at bay. She didn’t seem to be worried at all.
I was about to ask her how much longer we were going to walk when a small house came into view. It looked like an old stone house, with the roof covered in green ivy. Flowerpots decorated the porch in front of the house, making it look peaceful.
“I have never seen this before, and I grew up here. Did we leave my territory?”
The woman chuckled. “Of course, you wouldn’t recognize the house. You don’t see what we don’t want you to see, alpha.”
I gritted my teeth and swallowed another snappy response. It probably wasn’t the best idea to insult someone who somehow could summon a house out of thin air. Besides, I had no clue where I was.
She knocked on the wooden door twice before opening it. “I brought them.”
I hesitantly entered the house, a sweet smell hitting my nose causing me to cough. Gunnar choked behind me, seemingly not enjoying the scent either. The woman closed the door behind us, making me feel dizzy and trapped. Gunnar placed his hands on my shoulder, a smile on his face.
“It’s okay,” he said.
I wasn’t sure if I could believe him, but at least I wasn’t alone.
The house was a lot bigger than I expected. It was one large room, which seemed to function as a kitchen, living, and dining room at once. All the furniture was mismatched, and still fit together perfectly.
“I forgot how sensitive wolves react to the scents,” an older female voice said somewhere in the room, and it took me a while to find her, even though she was sitting right in front of me in a rocking chair. I rubbed my eyes. Was I about to lose my mind? How could I have missed her?
“We only let you see what we want you to see,” the younger woman repeated, sitting down on a chair next to the old woman.
And old was an understatement. She looked well over a hundred years old. But her eyes were clear and bright, and I bet her mind was still sharp as well.
She smiled, deep wrinkles forming around her eyes. “We have been waiting for you for a long time to return. Are you ready to find answers?”
I eyed her for a moment, trying to figure out if she would only play games with me or not. “Are you ready to give me the answers I want?”
She laughed and leaned back in the rocking chair, folding her wrinkly hands together. “You certainly are their daughter. That much is clear. Now, what are the questions you want answers to?”
I sat down on the small sofa to the right, and Gunnar took the spot next to me, causing the sofa to make a loud squeaking noise by the weight. One part of me was afraid the sofa would collapse under us, but I didn’t want him to sit down elsewhere either. He was calming my nerves.
I cleared my throat, locking eyes with her. “Why did you let my pack die?”