Gains and Losses - Leo
I made it back to the forest floor first. Al and Henry were safe inside the Yolk when I left, but I still felt anxious—I should have waited for them.
The cold early morning air reached my skin, sending the sensation of electric shock across every piece of me. Hands grabbed my arms and legs, holding me above the dirt and moving me forward.
What I could see was varied shades of green and gray. Panic filled my chest. My eyesight was all wrong. How long would it take to return to normal? My father’s voice was in my ear like a machine whirring and buzzing to the cadence of words. The first full sound I recognized was my name.
“Leo? Leo, focus on me. You’re out. You’re safe. Focus on here and now, Son. Feel your skin, breath in the morning air. You made it out.” My father sounded surprised.
I laughed and felt my ribs protest against my abused muscles. My body felt like one big bruise. Hands patted and pounded on my skin, dampening the shock. My deep labored breath woke me from the half-sleep, half-panicked euphoria buzzing around in my brain.
“Henry’s blind dad. Send somebody over to help him. He and Al should be right behind me.”
“People are waiting for him and Alerie. Don’t worry, breathe in and out slowly, Son.”
“They were fine a minute ago. I should have waited for her. Al cleared the field like she was playing a video game. Like a machine. I was running and running, it was so easy, and I was so fast. Tearing them apart felt natural. My wolf is huge and strong. I want to go back inside.”
“Of course, you do, Son.” The conversation from the men around me turned to light laughter, encouragement, and loud expressions of praise. I felt the positive intent of their words more than I understood what they were saying. It felt like being in the middle of my team after a win.
Several men from our clan surrounded me, blocking the full force of sunlight. As they moved around me, shook hands, mingled, and talked, my eyesight returned to full color, and my heartbeat slowed to a normal rate. I was myself again half-human, half-wolf and completely relieved.
Gasps and shrieks of disbelief came from the entrance of the White. The witches gathered around medical, rushed into the tree line. My father moved in front of me. The crowd thinned, allowing the cold morning air to saturate my clothes.
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Henry’s a fricken Angel.” I sat up on the exam table. In the distance, the tips of Henry’s white wings poked out over the growing crowd.
Walking through the invisible curtain felt like walking into a wall of thin gelatin. I could taste the air and see the bright sun glowing in front of me. I knew all there was to know about absolutely everything. The weight of all that knowledge, leaving my soul, dropped me to my knees. It was a gift to feel the weight of the world rush out of my already hectic mind.
The bright orange sun and the deep green trees caught my eyes first. The last time I saw the sun, I didn’t realize how beautiful it was or how much I would miss it. The skin on my back and shoulders felt heavy and bruised. I looked left and right to find the source of the nagging pain flagged out on either side of me.
The sunlight moved slowly through the trees. I could see the white wings attached to my body, and I panicked, thinking they might stay forever. As if to answer my concern, the sunlight reached the feathery tips of my wings. They began to smoke. I stood and quickly forced the new white appendages out away from my body. I balled my hands into fists, shut my eyes, and let the sun pour over my skin. The pain was hot and quick, but as the fire subsided, I realized the terrible sound in the air was my screaming.
Hands were on me, patting at the flames with wet rags. When the sun was through with me, all that remind of my wings were two piles of black ash. I’m told two large bruises appeared where my wings were attached. My skin healed quickly, and the sharp pain vanished, leaving behind two thin red lines.
Kate stood in front of me. Her arms extended, ready to catch me or guide me away. As my vision faded slowly to black, I watched as her coven crawled at my feet, scooping the ash from my wings into glass jars.
“It’s all going to be okay. Henry, can you hear me, Love? It’s all going to be okay.”
“It’s black again, Kate. I thought it was gone. I let myself believe...”
“Sweetheart, magic always takes back what it gives you.” Kate moved under my shoulder and put her arm around me.” Let’s get you to Malou across the way. It will all be fine.” Weakness steadily returned to my arms and legs. I felt like a God in the Yolk, and I think I believed I was one for a while.
“I could fly, Kate. Like a big fucking eagle. I could fly, and I could see everything. And I didn’t really care while I was inside there.”
“You can go back, Henry. You can all go back inside, but the enemy watched you and learned. That was the first round, what we call the Sacrifice. Next time you get the big boys, and they don’t fuck about. We need a lot more wolves. Alerie needs to recruit and convince more to follow her inside.”
“What do you guys call round two?”
“The wolves call it An Maru—The Slaughter.” Kate patted my chest. Malou put her hand on my arm and explained how she would soak me in a tub of herbs, and I would feel much better. I went along, letting myself be lowered into the water. Off to my side, Leo’s deep laughter bounced off the trees. I could hear he was fine.
The word slaughter rolled in my brain, and I began to understand why the demon was tutoring Alerie. She was the lamb.